A vaccine developed by a University of Minnesota researcher and tested in animals offers promise for preventing a common cause of mental retardation and deafness in humans.
Mark Schleiss, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases‚ led a research team that found that the experimental vaccine protected the offspring of guinea pigs infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV). They hope to conduct clinical trials in the next year to test whether the vaccine will have the same protective effect in humans.
CMV is the second most common cause of mental retardation after Down syndrome. It is also a leading cause of deafness and may play a role in cerebral palsy‚ seizure disorders‚ and other neurological problems.
Up to 40‚000 babies in the U.S. each year are born with CMV‚ which is transmitted to the fetus through the mother’s placenta. There is currently no treatment or vaccine licensed to prevent it.
“Most adults will be infected with CMV sometime in their lives‚ and most do not even realize they have it‚” Schleiss says. “Finding an effective vaccine for women before they become pregnant could go a long way in preventing often devastating long-term disabilities that result from CMV infection.”
Schleiss‚ who holds the Minnesota American Legion and Auxiliary Heart Research Foundation Chair‚ has worked for the past 15 years to create an effective CMV vaccine. His study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and appeared in the Journal of Infectious Disease.