Congenital Cytomegalovirus | Diagnosis & Treatments

How do we diagnose congenital cytomegalovirus?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis.

Most CMV infections in the mother are not diagnosed because the virus produces few symptoms. However, the virus can be detected using the following tests:

  • blood test: checking for antibodies in the mother’s bloodstream
  • swab culture: taking a sample with a cotton swab from the throat of the mother or the baby
  • urine test: checking the urine of the mother or the baby

If you are pregnant and know that you’ve had CMV in the past or know that you’re currently infected, ask your doctor to perform a test.

After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.

How do we treat congenital cytomegalovirus?

If your child has been diagnosed with cytomegalovirus (CMV), you may be confused, frightened, and overwhelmed. But you can rest assured that, at Boston Children's Hospital, your child is in good hands.

Our physicians are expert, compassionate, and committed to focusing on the whole child, not just his condition — that's one reason we're frequently ranked as a top pediatric hospital in the United States.

It's important to know the following about CMV: If your baby is born with CMV, we'll begin treating him right away. We treat babies with congenital cytomegalovirus with a course of intravenous antiviral medication over a period of several weeks. The most commonly used treatments for congenital cytomegalovirus are called ganciclovir and valganciclovir.

You and your care team will work together to customize a plan of care for your child.

Because CMV is so common and easily passed from one person to another, the most effective method of treatment is prevention. Here are a few tips for pregnant women to help avoid becoming infected with CMV:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water.
  • Avoid sharing food and drink with other people while you are pregnant.

Coping and support

It's essential to remember that while hearing that your child is infected with CMV can feel very isolating, many children and their families have been down this path before. We've helped them, and we can help you, too.

There are lots of resources available for your family — within Boston Children's, in the outside community, and online. These include:

Patient education: From the very first visit, our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any questions you may have. And they'll also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Boston Children's.

Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose baby has been treated for CMV? We can put you in touch with other families who have been through similar experiences and can share their experience.

Faith-based support: If you are in need of spiritual support, we'll help connect you with the Department of Spiritual Care (chaplaincy). Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you, and help you observe your own faith practices during the time you and your child are in the hospital.

Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child's diagnosis, stresses relating to coping with illness, and dealing with financial difficulties.

On our patient resources page, you can read all you need to know about: