Determining the prevalence of cytomegalovirus infection in a cohort of preterm infants

M.M. Pitlick, K. Orr, A.M. Momany, E.L. McDonald, J.C. Murray, K.K. Ryckman* | JNPM 2015;

Abstract. BACKGROUND: Preterm birth is a global public health problem that is a significant cause of infant morbidity and mortality. Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been proposed as a risk factor for preterm birth, but the rate of CMV in infants born preterm is unclear. CMV is the leading infectious cause of sensorineural hearing loss, which will affect 15% – 20% of congenitally infected infants later in their childhood. 90% of infected infants are asymptomatic at birth and are not recognized as at risk for CMV-associated deficits. OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of CMV infection in a large cohort of preterm infants. METHODS: DNA was extracted from cord blood, peripheral blood, saliva, and buccal swab samples collected from preterm infants. A total of 1200 unique DNA samples were tested for CMV using a nested PCR protocol. The proportions of preterm infants with CMV was compared by sample collection type, race, gender, and gestational age. RESULTS: A total of 37 infants tested positive for CMV (3.08%). After excluding twins, siblings, and infants older than two weeks at the time of sample collection, two out of 589 infants were CMV positive (0.3%), which was lower than the proportion of CMV observed in the general population. All positive samples came from buccal swabs. CONCLUSIONS: Our work suggests that while CMV infection may not be greater in preterm infants than in the general population, given the neurologic consequences of CMV in preterm infants, screening of this population may still be warranted. If so, our results suggest buccal swabs, collected at pregnancy or at birth, may be an ideal method for such a program.

*Corresponding Author: 

∗Corresponding author: Kelli K. Ryckman, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, 145 North Riverside Drive, 1130 S400 CPHB, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. Tel.: +1 319 384 1562; Fax: +1 319 384 4155; E-mail: