Congenital Cytomegalovirus

Also known as: congenital CMV.

What is congenital cytomegalovirus?

Cytomegalovirus is a virus that causes a number of concerning symptoms in infants, but may be carried in adults without them even being aware of it. When a mother passes the virus to her unborn baby, and the baby is born with symptoms of the disease, this is known as congenital cytomegalovirus.

What causes congenital cytomegalovirus?

The virus congenital cytomegalovirus is the cause of the illness. This virus is typically passed directly from the mother to her unborn fetus.  It is estimated that 0.5-1 % of children are born with congenital CMV infection but only 10 % of them are severe infections. Children whose mother develop primary CMV infection during the pregnancy are at highest risk for severe disease.

What are the symptoms of congenital cytomegalovirus?

Most children with congenital CMV are asymptomatic.

Those who have symptoms manifest the infection with:

  • low birth weight
  • rash
  • seizures
  • small head size
  • mineral deposits in the brain
  • enlarged liver or spleen
  • eye problems
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

CMV is the most common infectious cause of congenital deafness and diagnosing children in the newborn period may identify those children who benefit from antiviral treatment to reduce the risk of hearing loss.

What are congenital cytomegalovirus care options?

Diagnosis of congenital infection ought to be done within the first 21 days of life. Those children diagnosed after day 21 of life could have acquired the infection before or after birth. Those children who acquire the infection after birth has less risk of hearing loss.

Treatment for congenital cytomegalovirus is focused on specific symptoms or complications related to the illness. Antiviral medications may be helpful to prevent future complications in some children.

Reviewed by: P. Marcelo Laufer, MD

This page was last updated on: May 12, 2023 03:54 PM