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CMV Vaccine Prototype Successfully Tested in Guinea Pigs

her Communication Disorders. Every year, 0.5 to 2.5 percent of babies born in the United States are infected with CMV. The virus is transmitted to the fetus through the mother’s placenta.

Dr. Schleiss said that 10 percent to 15 percent of babies with congenital CMV have a long-term disability such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and hearing loss. The infection could potentially cause other developmental disabilities such as autism or attention deficit disorder. The virus can also damage the placenta, leading to pregnancy loss.

CMV is present in bodily secretions and is spread through close personal contact, such as kissing or sharing eating utensils. For example, an infant in daycare could give the virus to her pregnant mother by kissing her on the lips, said Dr. Schleiss. The virus can enter through mucosal surfaces such as the mouth or breaks in the skin. It can also be transmitted through nasal secretions, blood transfusions, and sexual contact. Most adults will become infected with CMV at some point during their lives. Dr. Schleiss added that pregnant women may not even know they have the infection.

CMV Vaccine Prototype

The experimental vaccine differs from traditional vaccines, which are made from a whole killed virus. Called a vector vaccine, the experimental vaccine uses an altered virus to deliver one gene from the viral DNA to the animal’s cells. The cells then begin manufacturing the viral protein. Cells of the guinea pigs’ immune system detect the viral protein and launch an attack against it. In so doing, they learn to recognize CMV. The gene used in the experimental guinea pig CMV vaccine—UL83, also called pp65—contains the information needed to make a protein involved in the infection process. The virus used to make the vector vaccine (Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus) was altered by removing 40 percent of the virus’ genes, to prevent it from reproducing and infecting new hosts.

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