Viral Determinants of Natural Human Cytomegalovirus Transmission

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that is present in 50-90% of adults globally, depending on the region. When a woman either becomes infected for the first time or reinfected during pregnancy, she may pass the infection to her fetus, which often causes hearing loss and intellectual disability in the child. CMV is the most common congenital infection worldwide. Women usually become (re)infected with CMV from virus shed by young children but a better understanding of how children transmit CMV to mothers is critical for designing strategies to prevent congenital CMV. 

We aim to determine how much shedding of the virus in saliva and urine of young children is required to transmit the infection to their mothers and what strains of virus successfully infect. To achieve this, we will collect samples from new mothers and their children for 1 year in Nairobi, Kenya, where rates of CMV infection are very high. Statistical testing will be used to evaluate risk factors for child and maternal (re)infection with CMV. 

This research project will provide invaluable information on CMV transmission and will inform the development of a vaccine to prevent maternal (re)infection and the resulting harm to children from congenital CMV infection.