Young children as a probable source of maternal and congenital cytomegalovirus infection

N Engl J Med. 1987 May 28;316(22):1366-70. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198705283162203.


To identify possible sources of cytomegalovirus infection in pregnant women, we studied seven families with a recent case of congenital or maternal cytomegalovirus infection and a history of maternal contact with a young child shedding the virus. We used restriction-endonuclease techniques to compare the DNA of viral isolates collected from family members. Five families contained an infant who had congenital or perinatal infection, a mother who had had evidence of primary infection during her most recent pregnancy, and a child less than three years of age who was excreting cytomegalovirus. All five of the young children attended day-care centers at least part-time. In each of these five families, strains from family members were identical, and it is most likely that the toddler-aged child was the source of the virus for both the mother and the fetus or infant. In two other families, acquisition of cytomegalovirus by children in a day-care center was followed by seroconversion in the mother along with excretion of a strain of the virus identical to that in her child, as demonstrated by restriction-endonuclease analysis. Five of the seven fathers were tested for antibody to cytomegalovirus; four were seronegative, ruling them out as a source of infection in the mothers. These results not only strengthen evidence for the transmission of cytomegalovirus from child to mother but also indicate that infections acquired by a mother from a child can be transmitted to her fetus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Child Day Care Centers
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / congenital*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / transmission
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / transmission*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral