soon a treatment against cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which affects one in 1,000 babies
It is in France, in New Aquitaine and more specifically at the University of Limoges, that Professor Sophie Alain, doctor-biologist at the Resinfit laboratory, the national reference center for cytomegalovirus, has just developed the promise of a effective treatment. “We discovered, begins Professor Alain, that a small part of the CMV protein was essential for its multiplication. By targeting this protein, we are able to neutralize it. The treatment that could be envisaged would have no toxicity either for the mother or for the child. »
No automatic screening
“Contamination occurs through saliva, urine, tears and nasal secretions”
The cytomegalovirus is proving to be a real pitfall in terms of public health. Indeed, despite a substantial prevalence, although the number of deaths linked to this virus is estimated at 300 each year in France, there is still no screening policy. No reliable prognosis, no effective treatment, France has chosen the policy of the ostrich. In fact, future mothers, but also general practitioners and often obstetricians have a very vague knowledge of the reality of the impact of CMV.
A lack of support that generates anger in the Limoges researcher: “Screening is considered anxiety-provoking by doctors, it is often poorly explained to patients. Most people carry this virus quietly, without any symptoms. This virus is the leading cause of deafness of non-genetic origin, but it can also cause brain damage. There is a battle to be waged to detect and explain the hygiene instructions to be followed. For example: pregnant mothers of a second child must be careful about contact with tears, secretions, objects touched by their first child, especially if he is under 3 years old, because this virus has the particularity of reactivate. However, all pregnant women should be screened. »
According to Professor Sophie Alain, young children are the virus reservoir. “Those under 3 years old have a CMV, 40% of children in crèches are affected. The virus persists on surfaces touched by the child: teaspoon, pacifiers, toys, etc. Regular hand washing is essential, but not enough. It is undoubtedly the complexity of this cytomegalovirus which led the health authorities to decide not to make screening tests compulsory. And then, how to explain to a pregnant mother that she must not be in contact with the drool, the tears, the secretions of her first baby?
“Screening is considered anxiety-provoking by doctors, it is often poorly explained to patients”
Apart from pregnant women, the populations most affected by this DNA virus of the herpes group are immunocompromised people, transplant recipients or carriers of HIV, for example. CMV infection eludes any reference treatment. In 2015, the parents of a baby who died at 5 weeks from this congenital infection alerted public opinion. Without effect. Since then, a treatment has been made available, an antiviral which, prescribed in high doses, can prevent CMV infection, particularly in transplant patients or HIV carriers. This preventive treatment can also be prescribed safely during the first trimester of pregnancy. Pregnant women still need to be screened…
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