CMV was discovered in the 50s by the same team of doctors that discovered polio, measles, mumps and chicken pox - yet CMV still remains almost unheard of and without any safe or effective vaccination or treatment.
More needs to be done to support the development of a vaccine. CMV is a ‘stealth virus’ which works by evading the immune system so developing a vaccine isn’t easy. However, international experts and government representatives are now positive that it can be done.
What does the future hold?
Paul Griffiths, Professor of Virology at the Royal Free Hospital and University College, has spent his professional life in medical virology. He is a leading authority on the CMV virus and is helping to lead the drive in this country to find an effective vaccine to ultimately eradicate it. Recent clinical trials report that protection is a distinct possibility and several vaccine candidates are now being evaluated. It is possible that CMV immunisation may become a routine part of clinical care for women of childbearing age in the next 10 years.
“After decades of counselling pregnant women with CMV infection about their individual risks of having a baby damaged by this virus, I still have difficulty answering their questions such as why they hadn’t been told about the infection before and why there isn’t a vaccine. For too long CMV has flown under the radar because it does not often produce overt symptoms to declare its presence”
He points out that it is now 60 years since this virus was first discovered and asks the question “can we get a vaccine in the next 5 years to pension CMV off before it reaches 65?”
But in the meantime Paul feels more can and should be done: “More information should be made available to pregnant women. Especially for those women who already have young children, and whose exposure to CMV is more likely due to lifestyle, and contact with other youngsters and families. CMV Action is playing a vital role in achieving this.”
CMV Action are supporting researchers and medical professionals in the development of CMV screening for pregnant women and newborns and, in the long term, the development and implementation of a vaccine against congenital CMV.