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Congenital cytomegalovirus: the case for targeted infant screening in Australia

Allison Reid, Asha C Bowen, Christopher G Brennan‐Jones and Jafri B Kuthubutheen
Med J Aust 2022; 216 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51406
Published online: 7 March 2022

Australia lacks a comprehensive approach to CMV screening, and most infected infants go undiagnosed

For the developing fetus, congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) represents one of the greatest threats to normal development posed by an infection. The virus is a leading cause of developmental disability and a common cause of permanent hearing loss in infants.1,2 Ninety percent of infected infants remain asymptomatic, making universal screening (testing all infants) difficult to justify.2 Despite the high asymptomatic rate, the significant prevalence and infectivity result in congenital CMV affecting more children than other disorders universally screened for in newborns in Australia. Congenital CMV infection is a significant if poorly recognised public health issue.

  • Allison Reid1,2
  • Asha C Bowen1,2,3
  • Christopher G Brennan‐Jones1,2,3,4
  • Jafri B Kuthubutheen1,2

  • 1 Perth Children's Hospital, Perth, WA
  • 2 University of Western Australia, Perth
  • 3 Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, WA
  • 4 Curtin University, Perth, WA



Acknowledgements: 

The Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation provides funding support for the state‐wide congenital cytomegalovirus screening program, underway in Western Australia (Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number ACTRN12621000484842). We thank the following people for their assistance: Peter Richmond (consultant paediatrician and paediatric immunologist and Head of the Department of Research at Perth Children’s Hospital, Head of the Division of Paediatrics at the University of Western Australia) and Tony Keil (Assistant Director of Pathology, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA and Consultant Clinical Microbiologist at Perth Children’s Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women [retired]). Asha Bowen received salary support from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Award (GNT1175509). Christopher Brennan‐Jones received salary support from an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (GNT 1142897) and the WA Health Future Health and Research Innovation Fund.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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