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Babies Born with CMV (Congenital CMV Infection)

Español: Bebés nacidos con citomegalovirus (infección congénita por CMV)

When a baby is born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, it is called congenital CMV.  About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection. However, only about one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will be sick from the virus or have long-term health problems.

Transmission

A pregnant woman can pass CMV to her unborn baby. The virus in the woman’s blood can cross through the placenta and infect the baby. This can happen when a pregnant woman is infected with CMV for the first time, or is infected with CMV again during pregnancy.

Father holding infant.

Signs and Symptoms

Most babies with congenital CMV infection never show signs or have health problems. However, some babies may have health problems that are apparent at birth or develop later during infancy or childhood. In the most severe cases of infection, CMV can cause the death of an unborn baby (pregnancy loss).

Some babies with congenital CMV infection have signs at birth. These signs include:

  • Rash
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Microcephaly (small head)
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (low weight)
  • Hepatosplenomegaly (enlarged liver and spleen)
  • Seizures
  • Retinitis (damaged eye retina)

Some babies with signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have long-term health problems, such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Developmental and motor delay
  • Vision loss
  • Microcephaly (small head)
  • Seizures

Some babies without signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have hearing loss. Hearing loss may be present at birth or may develop later, even in babies who passed the newborn hearing test.

Diagnosis

Congenital CMV infection can be diagnosed by testing a newborn baby’s saliva, urine (preferred specimens), or blood. These specimens must be collected for testing within two to three weeks after the baby is born in order to confirm a diagnosis of congenital CMV infection.

Treatment and Management

For babies with signs of congenital CMV infection at birth, antiviral medications, primarily valganciclovir,
may improve hearing and developmental outcomes. Valganciclovir can have serious side
effects and has only been studied in babies with signs of congenital CMV infection. There is limited
information on the effectiveness of valganciclovir to treat infants with hearing loss alone.

Babies with congenital CMV infection, with or without signs at birth, should have regular hearing checks. Follow up regularly with your baby’s doctor to discuss the care and additional services your child may need.

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