An experimental vaccine using a novel defense mechanism may eventually help protect people from a common virus that affects more than half of the U.S. population and causes congenital birth defects in some cases.
Using the most common form of white blood cell, called neutrophils, scientists from Cardiff University have found a way to quell cytomegalovirus, or CMV.
CMV is a common infection that is part of the herpesvirus group, which includes the herpes simplex viruses, the chickenpox-causing varicella zoster virus and the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis, also known as mono. About 50% to 80% of U.S. adults are infected with CMV by the time they are 40 years old.
Though usually harmless, congenital CMV can cause serious disease in babies who were infected with the virus before birth. About 1 in 150 children in the U.S. are born with congenital CMV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These babies are born with permanent disabilities, including blindness, deafness and brain damage.
Neutrophils have been known to be important in killing bacterial infections, and recently, some scientists have been studying the use of these white blood cells in fighting viral infections.