Identification of Symptomatic Fetuses Infected with Cytomegalovirus Using Amniotic Fluid Peptide Biomarkers

PLoS Pathog. 2016 Jan 25;12(1):e1005395. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005395. eCollection 2016 Jan.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common cause of congenital infection, and is a major cause of sensorineural hearing loss and neurological disabilities. Evaluating the risk for a CMV infected fetus to develop severe clinical symptoms after birth is crucial to provide appropriate guidance to pregnant women who might have to consider termination of pregnancy or experimental prenatal medical therapies. However, establishing the prognosis before birth remains a challenge. This evaluation is currently based upon fetal imaging and fetal biological parameters, but the positive and negative predictive values of these parameters are not optimal, leaving room for the development of new prognostic factors. Here, we compared the amniotic fluid peptidome between asymptomatic fetuses who were born as asymptomatic neonates and symptomatic fetuses who were either terminated in view of severe cerebral lesions or born as severely symptomatic neonates. This comparison allowed us to identify a 34-peptide classifier in a discovery cohort of 13 symptomatic and 13 asymptomatic neonates. This classifier further yielded 89% sensitivity, 75% specificity and an area under the curve of 0.90 to segregate 9 severely symptomatic from 12 asymptomatic neonates in a validation cohort, showing an overall better performance than that of classical fetal laboratory parameters. Pathway analysis of the 34 peptides underlined the role of viral entry in fetuses with severe brain disease as well as the potential importance of both beta-2-microglobulin and adiponectin to protect the injured fetal brain infected with CMV. The results also suggested the mechanistic implication of the T calcium channel alpha-1G (CACNA1G) protein in the development of seizures in severely CMV infected children. These results open a new field for potential therapeutic options. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that amniotic fluid peptidome analysis can effectively predict the severity of congenital CMV infection. This peptidomic classifier may therefore be used in clinical settings during pregnancy to improve prenatal counseling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amniocentesis
  • Amniotic Fluid / virology*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / transmission
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Diseases / virology
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Peptides / analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Viral Proteins / analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • Peptides
  • Viral Proteins

Grants and funding

CE-MS equipment was funded by the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale “Grands Equipements pour la Recherche Biomédicale” and the CPER2007-2013 program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.