Why should newborns be universally screened for cCMV?

Congenital CMV screening of an infant is simple and painless. It is accomplished using either a urine or saliva sample. The inside of your baby’s cheek is swabbed when a saliva sample is taken. 

cCMV can only be diagnosed by testing a newborn’s urine or saliva within the first 21 days of life. If an infant’s urine or saliva is tested later than that, it will be impossible to determine if the infection was present at birth or acquired later, since CMV is a common virus (CDC, 2020).

In Massachusetts, routine newborn screening for congenital diseases is required and occurs immediately after birth. cCMV is more common than many of the 66 conditions screened for in an infant after birth; yet, in Massachusetts, cCMV is not included during this process.

Currently in Massachusetts, there is no statewide policy on cCMV screening. In a few hospitals, infants are screened for cCMV only if they fail the newborn hearing screen. This is called targeted-screening. More than half of MA birthing hospitals have no screening program at all, based on a recent study.

Universal screening means screening for all infants.  In the case of cCMV screening, targeted screening usually means screening only infants who fail their hearing test. 

No. 87% of infants born with cCMV are asymptomatic at birth. The most common health problem that cCMV causes is progressive hearing loss. In a recent study, 43% of infants with CMV-related sensorineural hearing loss were missed with targeted screening (Fowler et. al., 2017).

According to the CDC, “It is not recommended that doctors routinely test pregnant women for CMV infection. This is because laboratory tests cannot predict which developing babies will become infected with CMV or have long-term health problems.”

Screening can lead to better outcomes

Children who are screened at birth and found to be CMV positive can start antivirals sooner - A crucial component to optimizing function.