For my new & hot blog this time around I chose to focus on a paper out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, "Valganciclovir for Symptomatic Congenital Cytomegalovirus Disease." I was drawn to this topic for two reasons -- first, because I was interested to learn more about any and all antivirals prescribed against herpesviruses, and valganciclovir is one. (A quick note -- valganciclovir, which is prescribed for CMV and AIDS should not be confused with valacyclovir, a variant of acyclovir usually used to combat alphaherpesviruses, and which I also blogged about!). Second, we have been discussing the teratogenic effects of CMV a lot in reviews lately, which made me interested in the applications of CMV treatment in babies in particular.
To speak to the latter point, I was startled to learn that CMV is actually the most common vertically transmitted infection, and that 1 in every 150 babies is born with the disease. This realization makes the development of treatment options and standards to ameliorate CMV all the more urgent.
The researchers in the UAB study, lead by Professor David Kimberlin, found that infants treated with valganciclovir for 6 months rather than the standard course of 6 weeks actually showed a threefold improvement in language development and hearing. Though the mechanism of this effect is still unknown, this finding is important given that one of the most common results of childhood CMV is deafness.