Early detection of Cytomegalovirus

Researchers from Cardiff and Swansea Universities are developing a new,'point of care' diagnostic device to detect a type of herpes virus called Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). Lead researchers, Dr Vincent Teng and Dr Richard Stanton (pictured) report that HCMV can have serious health consequences for patients with a weak immune systems, and has a “devastating impact” on pregnant women and their babies if infected.

About Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) Infection

HCMV is spread through bodily fluids including saliva, blood, breast milk, semen and urine and the majority of adults will be infected by HCMV at some point in their life. Once infected, the virus is carried within the person for life, but as long as people remain healthy, they rarely show any symptoms.

“However, HCMV can result in serious health complications and even death for those with weak immune systems, such as patients with HIV and organ transplant recipients,” said Dr Teng, an Associate Professor and Head of the Nanoelectronics Research Group at Swansea University,

More common than Down's Syndrome

CMV and Pregnancy

Dr Teng goes onto say, “It is a particular problem if caught by a woman during pregnancy, a problem affecting about one to two babies in every 200 in the UK. This makes it more common than Down’s Syndrome. HCMV can cause permanent disabilities such as mental retardation, blindness, deafness, or even fatality, to infected babies.  Many infections are not diagnosed at birth because they do not show symptoms, however they can develop hearing or vision loss, or developmental problems, months or years later."

Therefore, early detection of HCMV is critical to allow intervention as soon as possible, in order to minimise the long-term impact of these problems.

Developing a new CMV Test for Screening Babies

The R&D explores a way to produce a new, non-invasive, low-cost, easy to use point of care diagnostic device, which can directly detect HCMV either in urine or saliva. Using new technology the method will then facilitate large-scale screening programs and it would become possible to screen all newborn babies for the virus, allowing targeted treatment even before symptoms are seen.

The novel approach involves a printing technique, which offers low-cost high-volume production of the technology, to ensure commercial viability of the invention.  This is in collaboration with co-investigator Dr Davide Deganello, from the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC) at Swansea University.

Dr Richard Stanton said: “Up to 1,000 babies are born every year in the UK with permanent disabilities as a result of HCMV infection.  This project is a fantastic opportunity to combine expertise in virus infection at Cardiff University, viral diagnosis at the Wales Specialist Virology Centre, nanotechnology at Swansea University and printing at the WCPC to make a real difference to their quality of life.”

Welcoming the news of the grant award, Caroline Star, Chair of CMV Action, said: “We are very excited on this innovative project.  An early diagnosis of congenital HCMV is crucial to ensure that families can get the treatment and monitoring their babies need.  Sadly this often does not happen. 

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
Any condition present since birth. Full medical glossary
A member of the herpes group of viruses. Full medical glossary
The process of determining which condition a patient may have. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
The abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the cause of AIDS. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Any test or technique that does not involve penetration of the skin. The term 'non-invasive' may also describe tumours that do not invade surrounding tissues. Full medical glossary
the period from conception to birth Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
One of a class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary