Swabbing a newborn's mouth for saliva can be used to quickly and effectively screen for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, a leading cause of hearing loss in children, says research in the June 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found saliva correctly identified every baby born with the infection when liquid samples were used, and 97.4 percent of babies when the samples were dried. The research was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health.
"Most babies infected with CMV don't show symptoms at birth," said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIDCD. "It's important for us to develop diagnostic tools to screen babies for congenital CMV infection so that those who test positive can be monitored for possible hearing loss and, if it occurs, provided with appropriate intervention as soon as possible."
CMV is the most common infection passed from a mother to her unborn child. Of the 20,000-30,000 infants who are born infected with CMV each year, roughly 10-15 percent are at risk for developing hearing loss.
The multicenter research project, led by UAB researchers Suresh Boppana, M.D., and Karen Fowler, Dr.P.H., was seeking to find the most effective screening test for CMV infection in newborns. In an earlier study (www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/releases/10/4_13_10.htm), the scientists had concluded that a dried blood spot, such as that taken using the common heel stick technique, detected only 30-40 percent of babies with CMV infection, and was therefore not an effective screening tool. A screening method should have at least 95 percent accuracy, or sensitivity, in order to be considered effective.
Nearly 35,000 infants in the well baby nurseries of seven U.S. hospitals were enrolle
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NIH/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders