Background: Congenital cytomegalovirus (C-CMV) infection affects 0.4–2% of newborn infants in Israel, most of whom are asymptomatic. Of these, 10–20% will subsequently develop hearing impairment and might have benefitted from early detection by neonatal screening.
Objectives: To retrospectively analyze the results of a screening program for C-CMV performed at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, during a 1 year period, using real-time polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) from umbilical cord blood.
Methods: CMV DNA was detected by rt-PCR performed on infants’ cord blood. C-CMV was confirmed by urine culture (Shell-vial). All confirmed cases were further investigated for C-CMV manifestations by head ultrasound, complete blood count, liver enzyme measurement, ophthalmology examination and hearing investigation.
Results: During the period 1 June 2009 to 31 May 2010, 11,022 infants were born at the Sheba Medical Center, of whom 8105 (74%) were screened. Twenty-three (0.28%) were positive for CMV and 22 of them (96%) were confirmed by urine culture. Two additional infants, who had not been screened, were detected after clinical suspicion. All 24 infants were further investigated, and 3 (12.5%) had central nervous system involvement (including hearing impairment) and were offered intravenous ganciclovir for 6 weeks. Eighteen (82%) infants would not otherwise have been diagnosed.
Conclusions: The relatively low incidence of C-CMV detected in our screening program probably reflects the low sensitivity of cord blood screening. Nevertheless, this screening program reliably detected a non-negligible number of infants who could benefit from early detection. Other screening methods using saliva should be investigated further.