Experimental vaccine cuts CMV risk in half

An experimental vaccine cut the rate of cytomegalovirus infections in young women by half in a mid-stage trial, and the researchers involved say that it may well significantly reduce instances of a major cause of birth defects. The vaccine from Sanofi-Aventis also demonstrated effectiveness for up to three and a half years after vaccination.

"In many ways, this was a surprising result," said lead author Dr. Robert Pass. "Many people in the field felt it would be very difficult to prevent infection in mothers. We thought the best we could hope for was a vaccine for women that would prevent infection in a baby."

Every year about 8,000 newborns suffer severe physical damage from CMV, including hearing loss and mental impairment. It's a common virus and Pass said that it has a history of adapting quickly to avoid elimination by the human immune system. Pass's vaccine combined a single CMV protein with an adjuvant, which is used to boost its power.

"If we can reduce the risk of a pregnant woman acquiring CMV, then we will reduce the many neurologic and congenital risks that CMV poses to a growing fetus," said Dr. Navid Mootabar, associate chief of obstetrics at Northern Westchester Hospital. "However, further larger studies will be needed to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine before we should recommend it to all women."

- check out the report from HealthDay