Cytomegalovirus transmission to preterm infants during lactation

Hamprecht K, Maschmann J, Jahn G, Poets CF, Goelz R.

J Clin Virol. 2008 Mar;41(3):198-205.


Breastfeeding has a major impact on HCMV epidemiology. The incidence of postnatal HCMV reactivation during lactation equals the maternal seroprevalence. Infectious virus, viral DNA and RNA can be isolated easily from cell and fat-free milk whey. Early onset of viral DNAlactia and virolactia as well as high viral load in milk whey are maternal risk factors for virus transmission.

The dynamics of HCMV reactivation can be described by unimodal kinetics with interindividual variation. Virus reactivation during lactation is a self-limiting local process in the absence of systemic HCMV infection. Preterm infants below 1000g birthweight and a gestational age below 30 weeks may be at high risk of acquiring a symptomatic HCMV infection. Several recent studies described low transmission rates and mostly asymptomatically infected neonates using frozen milk. Despite different freeze-storing procedures, HCMV transmissions occurred, and severe HCMV infections were observed. Few data exist on the long-term outcome of postnatally acquired HCMV infection via breast milk. To substantiate the international debate on the use of native or inactivated milk for feeding of preterm infants, additional data are necessary for better identification of mother–infant-pairs at risk for viral transmission and symptomatic infection early after birth.