Rochester School of Medicine: Planning CMV Herpes Vaccine & Need Volunteers

Researchers at URMC (University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry) are planning to test out a new vaccine against a type of herpes virus.  Unlike cold sores, chicken pox, and shingles, this virus called “Cytomegalovirus” or “CMV” doesn’t cause symptoms in over half of adults who are infected by the age of 40.  This virus can become a problem for pregnant women because there is a possibility that they can pass it on to their unborn children.

CMV Herpes: Why A Vaccine is Necessary

If a baby is infected with CMV before they are born (congenital CMV), a variety of developmental issues arise.  These developmental issues include:

  • Smaller head size
  • Hearing loss
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Sickness
  • Death (in some cases)

Leading the trials of a new vaccine is Robert F. Betts (M.D.) – an infectious disease specialist.  His team is trying to recruit 20 healthy volunteers to test the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of their new vaccine aimed to protect against CMV.  Their team hopes to develop something that will work and help people protect their newborns from CMV.  Currently there is no vaccine available and if this vaccine ends up working, it could save thousands of lives and prevent numerous disabilities.

Not only could a vaccine help babies avoid lifelong developmental issues, it could save many lives.  If a child isn’t infected in the womb, this vaccine it could also be the difference between life and death.  The goal of developing this vaccine is to reduce the frequency of the virus and the societal burden that people with CMV face.  If these scientists are able to prove that a vaccine works for CMV, all women could be tested for the virus and offered a vaccine before giving birth.

CMV Statistics

Below are some statistics to keep in mind regarding CMV herpes and how it affects newborns.

  • It is 5-7x more common than congenital rubella (German measels)
  • About 1 out of 150 children is born with a CMV infection
  • Of children born with CMV, 20% develop permanent problems
  • Infants with CMV after birth rarely have symptoms or problems

The virus is found in high concentrations within semen, so infection can occur simultaneously with pregnancy.  Another common reason CMV infection happens is that in families with multiple kids, the first-born can get the virus from daycare.  When the first-born gets the virus and brings it back to their mother, she can infect the second baby.  This is a very common way newborns become infected.

Note: It should also be noted that the drug company Merck & Co. is developing a vaccine to prevent CMV and is funding this research.  Betts (the lead doctor) will be paid as a consultant from Merck.

Are you interested in participating?

This study needs some volunteers.  They are looking for people who are over 18 years of age, in good health, and not pregnant.  During the trial, individuals will be given either: the real CMV vaccine or a placebo.  They will then determine how effective the vaccine is to prevent transmission and eliminate cases of the virus.

If you are interested, you will need to see if you qualify for a screening.  This will involve a blood test to confirm that you have CMV.  Contact the Infectious Disease Research Group at 585-275-0123 if you would like to join the study. Volunteers will be compensated up to $655 for their time.

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