The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) recently held a consultation reviewing the evidence for whether to screen new-born babies for cytomegalovirus (CMV). Screening does not currently take place in the UK and the consultation called for new evidence which the Committee could use to consider a change in this policy.
CMV Action prepared a number of responses to the consultation (working with a consortium of eminent medics working in the CMV field who also submitted a response), pointing out that CMV is a significant public health burden in the UK and that there are a number of practical steps that can be taken to reduce its impact whilst research is underway to address evidence gaps. We also called for discussions about how research could be prioritised in the UK to advance specific details of how universal new-born screening for congenital CMV could be carried out effectively.
Unfortunately, there was no new substantial evidence to change the committee’s recommendation not to screen.
Key findings supporting the UK NSC recommendation not to screen were:
- An option for newborn screening would be to test a saliva sample, but research is needed to understand if this test is suitable for screening.
- It is not currently possible to know which babies are going to develop long-term health problems. More research is needed to distinguish between babies who will suffer from the infection and babies who will not.
- Screening is likely to identify a greater number of babies with the infection who have no symptoms and will not have problems from it. Currently, it is not clear what is the best approach for managing these children, and it is unknown whether screening improves their outcomes.
CMV Action understands the reasoning behind the decision but calls for a multidisciplinary team effort to critically evaluate how the possibility of universal CMV screening for neonates can be taken forward. We believe that maintaining a three year review cycle for CMV is not sufficient as major publications continue to add to the evidence that universal screening is both desirable and likely to be cost effective in the future.
The full recommendation can be found at: https://legacyscreening.phe.org.uk/cytomegalovirus
We will continue to campaign for change.