The number of babies born with cytomegalovirus has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted in JAMA, researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine found that the number of babies born in Minnesota with cytomegalovirus (CMV) dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that in the five-year period leading up to the pandemic, about one in every 200 babies born was born with CMV. Between August 2020 and December 2021, the number fell to one baby in every 1,000 births.

Finally, something positive has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hygiene precautions we all committed to during the pandemic -; masking, hand washing and infection prevention behaviours; were almost certainly responsible for reducing CMV transmission, which in turn protected mothers and newborns from the potentially devastating effects of the CMV virus. »

Dr. Mark Schleiss, study principal investigator and pediatric infectious disease specialist and professor at U of M Medical School

CMV is the most common virus that causes birth defects and disabilities in newborns.

The researchers concluded that the combination of strict hygiene precautions, stay-at-home practices and, most importantly, the closure of childcare centers and group daycares, resulted in a reduction in the transmission of the CMV virus to children and their caregivers. mothers during the pandemic. Women with toddlers in group day care are at risk of acquiring it from their child. If such infections occur in a subsequent pregnancy, the next child may be born with the infection and be at risk of developing disabilities, especially hearing loss.

The research team recommends new public awareness campaigns to increase knowledge and awareness of CMV. Dr. Schleiss was part of the advocacy campaign that led to the Minnesota Legislature passing the Vivian Act in 2021. Led by Minnesota parents and doctors, the law made Minnesota the first state to begin universal screening for congenital cytomegalovirus in all newborns. The law aims to improve knowledge and enable prevention strategies for CMV infection.

This research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health.


Journal reference:

Schleiss, MR, et al. (2022) Assessing the congenital prevalence of cytomegalovirus in newborns in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA network open.

Denise W. Whigham