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The UK NSC recommendation on cytomegalovirus screening in pregnancy

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended
Last review completed May 2012
Next review due in 2015/16
Key downloads

Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

Screening in pregnancy is not recommended because:   

  • there is uncertainty regarding the natural history of primary and recurrent CMV as it relates to the risk to the fetus. 
  • the screening test for susceptibility lacks sufficient sensitivity.
  • there is uncertainty regarding the further investigations needed to refine the risk to the fetus in women with primary infection and
  • no interventions have been shown to be effective in preventing maternal infection or reducing the risk of transmission to the fetus.

Screening in the neonatal period is not recommended because:

  • the available tests have not been shown to be sufficiently reliable for screening and
  • there is no clear evidence of benefit from the available intravenous or oral antiviral therapies.

More about Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus (the large cell virus) is a common virus and about fifty per cent of the population of Britain have been infected with it at some time. Frequently the infection passes unnoticed or there may be mild flu-like symptoms. The virus belongs to the herpes family, which includes the chicken-pox, cold sore and glandular fever viruses. Once infection has taken place, the virus remains dormant within the body, usually with no ill effects. However, recurrences of the virus in body fluids may occur at intervals.

In the UK about forty per cent of women are susceptible to CMV at the time of pregnancy. The main risk is when women catch the viral infection for the first time in pregnancy. Women are usually only mildly unwell with a sore throat and flu-like illness. The chance of the baby becoming infected is about forty per cent. Over ninety per cent of infected babies have no signs of anything wrong at birth.

» Read more about cytomegalovirus on NHS Choices


Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

Related documents

icon CMV screening policy review summary (PDF document, 144KB, 28/05/12)

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