CMV Testing Helps Infants

CMV (CYTOMEGALOVIRUS) is a complex flu-like virus that most adults are exposed to at sometime in their life. Because the virus can persist in white blood cells it is often transmitted by a blood transfusion but rarely causes disease. however, in the case of low birth weight infants the consequences of such infection may be severe or even fatal. Scientific studies have shown that blood lacking this virus (CMV NEGATIVE) is safer for specific patient groups such as newborns. Therefore, hospitals prefer to use CMV negative pediatric units to ensure the safety of blood transfusions to newborns.

At present, the means of identifying donors who are at risk of transmitting CMV is to test for the presence of antibodies to the virus. The American Red Cross tests "O" negative donations for the CMV antibody because "O" negative units are most commonly used for infant transfusions. Other blood types are tested when a specific type is requested. Those who have tested negative in the past are re-tested prior to the release of their blood because there is a chance that the donor has had a CMV infection since the last time he/.she donated.

The incidence of CMV infection is dependent upon geographic, socioeconomic and age factors The presence of the antibody increases with age. It has been estimated that 25-50 percent of the American population have CMV antibodies present in their blood by the age or 15.

Studies have also shown that the transfusion of blood products from CMV negative donors is a highly effective means of preventing primary CMV infection in bone marrow transplant recipients, if the marrow donor is also CMV negative. CMV negative blood has also proven to be beneficial to recipients with suppressed immune systems.

Therefore, the need for CMV negative donors is increasing as additional categories of patients.