Newborn saliva can help detect potential for
hearing loss

Swabbing a newborn’s mouth for saliva is one way to quickly and effectively screen for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, a major cause of hearing loss in children.

Researchers in a recent national study found that saliva enabled them to correctly identify every baby born with the infection when the saliva sample was liquid, and 97.4 percent when dried saliva specimens were used.

Dr. Pablo Sanchez, a pediatrician at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the findings are important because few newborns display any clinical signs of CMV infection.

“Babies who test positive can be monitored for possible hearing loss, and if needed, provided with appropriate intervention as soon as possible,” says Dr. Sanchez, co-author of the study.

CMV is the most common infection passed from a mother to her unborn child. Each year, as many as 10 percent to 50 percent of the 20,000 to 30,000 babies infected with CMV at birth are at risk for having or developing hearing loss.

The study, published in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, involved nearly 35,000 infants from well-baby nurseries at seven U.S. hospitals between June 2008 and November 2009. Most swabs were taken when the infants were 1 day old. Those who tested positive for CMV infection were enrolled in a follow-up program to monitor their hearing every six months until age 4.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/pediatrics  to learn more about UT Southwestern’s pediatric clinical services.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

Return to July 2011 News Tips

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