Over the years, a number of scientists have worked to create a vaccine against human CMV. Among these is former Wistar researcher Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D., who during his career at the Institute between 1960 and 1991 developed the rubella vaccine that eradicated the disease in the U.S. and co-developed a new rotavirus vaccine approved in the U.S. in 2006. Plotkin's approach to developing a CMV vaccine was to attenuate, or weaken, human CMV, as he had done to create the rubella vaccine. In contrast, the rotavirus vaccine was developed using co-infection techniques to incorporate selected elements from several human rotavirus strains into a bovine rotavirus backbone. The vaccine that resulted takes advantage of the immunological characteristics of both the human and bovine viruses. This approach is conceptually similar to Maul's strategy for developing a CMV vaccine, although the recombinant technologies available today should help to streamline the task.
CMV infection is widespread in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 50 and 80 percent of adults are infected with CMV by the time they reach 40 years of age, but the virus generally poses little threat to them. The exceptions are AIDS patients, transplant recipients, and others with compromised immune systems are at risk for complications. The virus is a member of the herpes virus family, which includes the herpes simplex viruses, the viruses that cause chicken pox (varicella-zoster virus), and infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus.) Infectious transmission is via body fluids.