A new UK research project "Reducing Acquisition of CMV through antenatal Education" (RACE-FIT)" has been launched to assess an educational intervention to prevent cytomegalovirus infection in pregnancy.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common infection to be contracted before birth (a congenital infection); overall, about 20% of babies infected in this way have permanent health problems, such as hearing loss, learning delay or physical impairments. CMV is not a well-known infection, despite the health problems it can cause. It is actually more common than Down’s syndrome or spina bifida. Simple hygiene measures may reduce the risk of catching CMV infection whilst pregnant and therefore also the risk of congenital infection. In the UK, pregnant women are not routinely told about these hygiene measures.
Before we can embark on a large-scale study in the UK to determine the effectiveness of an educational intervention in reducing CMV infection in pregnancy, we need to develop educational material and test the feasibility of such a large study.
Doctors at St Georges University of London, in partnership with CMV Action, will work together with experts from University College London and Cambridge University to develop and test material. The study has been funded by the National institute for Health Research.
In this feasibility study we will work with pregnant women and families affected by CMV to design and produce a short film appropriate for use in the NHS to educate women about these simple hygiene measures. Working in partnership with members of the public will help us ensure the content is relevant, clear and sensitive.
We will use this film in a study where women are assigned by chance to the educational intervention or to continue with treatment as usual with information about vaccines already recommended within the NHS. This ensures both groups will get some benefit from the study. This study will enable us to work out the number of pregnant women who are at risk of contracting CMV, how many of these women would agree to take part and to calculate the number of people needed in a future main trial in order to come to a reliable answer. This feasibility study is therefore essential to the design of a large-scale future trial.
Caroline Star, Chair of CMV Action welcomed the new funding:
"We are delighted that this important research has been prioritised by NIHR and we look forward to contributing to this project. This research is urgently needed to find the best way of giving CMV risk reduction advice in the NHS. We hope it will lead to more women being educated about the simple hygiene precautions that can protect their baby"