WORCESTER, MA New insights into how human cytomegalovirus (CMV), the leading cause of birth defects associated with infection spreads from pregnant mother to fetus and from organ to organ in newborns provides translational researchers an exciting new avenue for investigation that may lead to the development of therapeutic interventions. Using next generation sequencing and population genetic modeling, scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) and the Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne (EPFL) have found that CMV evolves rapidly and dramatically in humans. These findings, published in PLoS Genetics, provide new genetic targets that could impede the evolution of CMV and prevent its spread.
"These findings have important implications for how we think about and develop new therapeutic treatments for CMV," said Timothy F. Kowalik, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and physiological systems and senior author of the study. "Although CMV is able to infect a wide variety of organs throughout the body, there are a substantial number of genetic changes that occur before the virus can spread and replicate efficiently in different anatomic niches. If these genetic changes can be prevented, it may be possible to isolate and block the spread of CMV."
CMV is a ubiquitous virus that infects most of the human population and can move throughout the body from organ to organ. Infection is usually asymptomatic in healthy hosts, but may cause severe symptoms for patients with a compromised immune system, such as organ transplant recipients, HIV-infected persons, newborn infants or the fetus during gestation.
Congenital CMV infection, which is passed from a pregnant mother to fetus, is a significant cause of birth defects, and remains a high priority for vaccine development according to the nonprofit, Institute of Medicine. An estimated 30,000 infants per year in the U.S. are diagnosed with congenital CMV inf
|Contact: Jim Fessenden|
University of Massachusetts Medical School