Dayton Children’s Hospital

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus, typically abbreviated as CMV, is a common virus that is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids such as urine, saliva, blood, breast milk and semen. It can also be contracted through a transplanted organ or a blood transfusion. CMV is sometimes spread from a pregnant mother to her baby via the placenta, a condition that is known as congenital CMV. When a mother with CMV spreads the virus to a full term, healthy newborn by breast milk she also gives her newborn antibodies. This is safe for the baby because the baby has the mother’s natural immunity to the virus.

CMV is related to the viruses that cause chicken pox and infectious mononucleosis (mono). There is no cure for CMV. But once a person becomes infected they make antibodies, and recurrent infections are not usually serious.

How is CMV diagnosed?

Most babies who are infected with CMV have no signs or symptoms. About 90 out of 100 babies with a congenital CMV infection never develop any symptoms, but the remaining 10 will have varying degrees of abnormalities.

Congenital CMV is sometimes diagnosed before birth, either by testing the mother for the development of new antibodies, or when physicians see abnormalities during an ultrasound. Screening of pregnant women for congenital CMV is not currently recommended, due to the lack of an effective and approved treatment. If an abnormality suggestive of congenital CMV is seen on ultrasound, then your doctor may recommend maternal antibody testing and/or an amniocentesis.

In other cases, babies are not diagnosed until after they are born. Some will have no symptoms at birth, but will begin to show signs of CMV over time. Common symptoms of CMV include:

  • Eye inflammation
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Large liver and spleen
  • Low birth weight
  • Purplish rash
  • Seizures
  • Small head size
  • Pneumonia

If your doctor suspects your baby may have CMV, tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis. Common tests for diagnosing CMV include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine test
  • Saliva test
  • Chest X-ray

How is CMV treated?

There is a promising new treatment for Congenital CMV that is diagnosed in-utero (prior to delivery), that is currently experimental. Through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Miami Valley Hospital is part of a national investigation of a new antibody treatment for mothers who are diagnosed with congenital CMV by a maternal antibody test. Although the antibody test is not currently recommended for all pregnant women, you can have this test done as part of the CMV study, by either asking you doctor, contacting the study nurse, Kaye Snow at 937-208-2411, or the Fetal to Newborn Center’s nurse navigator.

If CMV is diagnosed after delivery, then there is no specific treatment. In some cases it can cause vision problems (including blindness), or deafness. It also may cause psychomotor retardation, which is a condition in which a person moves, thinks and speaks very slowly. Treatments focus on specific problems, such as physical therapy and appropriate education for children with psychomotor retardation.

In some cases, antiviral medications may be used to help slow the virus and reduce certain symptoms.

How will CMV affect my baby during and after surgery?

Babies with CMV do not require surgery. Up to 90 percent of babies who have symptoms of CMV when they are born will develop neurologic problems later in life. Only about 5 to 10 percent of babies born without symptoms will have these problems.