A new clinical Standard Reference Material (SRM) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will help health care professionals more accurately diagnose and treat cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common pathogen that is particularly dangerous for infants and persons with weakened immune systems.
CMV is found in 50 to 80 percent of the population. It is a member of the herpes family of viruses that includes two herpes simplex viruses (the causes of cold sores and genital herpes), the varicella-zoster virus (the cause of chicken pox and shingles) and the Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of mononucleosis). Like its cousin herpes viruses, CMV generally remains latent in an infected person unless certain conditions trigger its activation. CMV poses a significant health risk to people who are immunocompromised (such as organ transplant patients or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy) and babies who receive the virus from their mothers before birth. Congenital CMV infections cause more long-term problems and childhood deaths than many other prenatal disorders including fetal alcohol syndrome, Down syndrome and neural tube defects such as spinal bifida.
If a CMV infection becomes dangerous, antiviral agents can be used to moderate the impact. Unfortunately, many of these compounds are toxic, so a physician must know the severity of the infectiona measure known as viral load (number of virus copies per microliter of blood)to prescribe the optimal dosage and duration of treatment. The current means of measuring viral load is to use polymerase chain reaction (PCR)the standard technique for "amplifying" or making multiple copies of a DNA segment or moleculeto amplify a region of the CMV gene and then use a calibration curve to estimate the number of virus particles in the original sample. Accuracy of these measurements can vary greatly from one test facility to another as there are many different PCR protocols used to determine viral load
|Contact: Michael E. Newman|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)