UAB: Blood testing not effective for finding CMV in newborns

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Researchers at UAB say they have found that blood samples taken from newborns are not as effective as saliva and urine tests in screening for cytomegalovirus(CMV) infections.

CMV is a major cause of hearing loss in children and is the most common infection passed from a mother to an unborn child.  20,000 to 30,000 infants are infected each year and 10-15% of those risk hearing loss. The sooner CMV is found in a child, the better a doctor can monitor the child's hearing.

Researchers say that dried blood spots are routinely collected from all infants born in the United States for detecting metabolic and genetic disorders. Because of this, there has been interest in using the blood to test for CMV.  UAB DNA analysts say that this method is much less effective than the rapid-culture CMV tests that use saliva or urine. The problem with rapid-culture CMV tests is that they are labor-intensive and require an on-site tissue-culture facility. This causes rapid-culture testing to be difficult to adapt for widespread screening.

"To identify these at-risk infants early in life, rapid, reliable, and relatively inexpensive methods to screen newborns for congenital CMV infection are needed," says lead author and co-principal investigator Suresh B. Boppana, M.D. "Early identification of at-risk children will allow targeted monitoring in order to intervene at criti­cal stages of acquiring speech and lan­guage skills. Unfortunately, at least with current technologies, these findings show us that the heel-stick test is not an option for a primary newborn screening tool for CMV."

Researchers are now testing to see if saliva samples tested like the blood samples can be more effective than blood when compared to the rapid-culture testing.