Preventing cytomegalovirus in utero

Craig BierleCytomegalovirus (CMV) causes more disabilities than any other infectious disease in children and is the number one cause of deafness in young people. But because the herpes-like virus is contracted in utero, usually passed on by mothers who don’t know they have it, it is a challenging disease to treat.

Craig Bierle, Ph.D., part of the U’s pediatrics faculty, is especially interested in what happens during pregnancy that causes CMV to pass from mother to child.

Although the placenta typically protects the fetus from disease, CMV is one of only a handful of pathogens that can infect it and pass through to the fetus. Bierle believes that this happens because there is something about CMV that outsmarts the immune system, allowing it to go undetected. With Masonic support, he and his team are using an experimental model of CMV to understand exactly how CMV infects the placenta and how viral infections affect placental function. In addition to informing the development of vaccines or antiviral drugs to treat CMV, Bierle hopes this research will reveal broader insights into the causes of preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, pregnancy loss, and more.  

“It is humbling to receive support from the Masonic Charities. Whether funding comes from foundations or the federal government, research support is an endorsement of the importance of our work and reflects faith that the work done by my group will lead to discoveries that will improve the health of children.”

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