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New research project to tackle CMV

3 October, 2017

New research project to tackle CMV

A new research project is to explore how pregnant women’s hygiene habits can impact on infant health, in particular Cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Researchers at Kingston University and St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are investigating whether changing pregnant women’s hygiene habits could help in the fight against one of the leading causes of childhood disability.

CMV is the most common congenital infection in the UK. Although the virus causes only mild symptoms in adults, it can cause permanent health problems, such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay and hearing loss, if babies are infected in the womb.

Most pregnant women are unaware of CMV or the measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of catching it, because information about the virus is not routinely offered by the NHS. 

The research team, which includes behavioural experts and clinicians from Kingston University, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University College London and Cambridge University, as well as the charity CMV Action, secured more than £300,000 from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit Programme. 

Dr Tushna Vandrevala, senior lecturer in health psychology at Kingston University, said the team will explore whether increasing awareness of CMV and encouraging parents to change their hygiene habits might be the key to reducing the risk of the virus in pregnancy. 

‘Currently, there is no licensed vaccine to prevent infection and no routine treatment of antenatal CMV in the NHS.
‘However, because the virus is spread through bodily fluids, such as saliva and urine, and can be passed on through close contact with young children, following simple good hygiene rules may prevent infection being acquired in pregnancy,’ said Dr Vandrevala.

As part of the three-year study, the team will work with pregnant women, their partners and families affected by congenital CMV to produce a film that outlines simple preventative measures, such as washing hands after nappy changes and not sharing utensils with toddlers. They are currently recruiting pregnant women as well as families affected by the virus to participate in the study. 


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