Long before the Zika virus became a global fear, cytomegalovirus, or CMV, was commonly infecting developing fetuses and causing many of the same brain and developmental impairments.

Credit: Alisa Weigandt for Duke Health
Credit: Alisa Weigandt for Duke Health

The virus, one of only a handful known to be transmitted through the mother’s placenta to a fetus, infects nearly 1 million infants a year worldwide and is a leading cause of microcephaly, hearing and/or vision loss, and nervous system damage.

With effective interventions lacking, development of a vaccine remains an urgent public health mission. Now researchers from Duke University School of Medicine and Tulane National Primate Research Center report findings in monkeys that demonstrates a vaccine approach that appears to be capable of protecting the animal’s fetus from infection.

“The presence of potent antibodies at the time of the mother’s primary infection seems to  prevent viral transmission and severe disease in the developing fetus, and therefore should be a primary target of vaccines to prevent neonatal infection,” said co-senior author Sallie Permar, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Duke and member of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. Permar and colleagues, including co-senior author Amitinder Kaur, M.D., of Tulane National Primate Research Center, published their findings in the July 6 issue of the journal JCI Insight.

Read more at Duke Health

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Related: CMV risk far outweighs Zika: Most common viral cause of birth defects in the US