Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm has approved an advisory committee’s recommendation to add congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) to the list of conditions for which Minnesota newborns are routinely screened, paving the way for Minnesota to become the first state in the nation to screen every newborn for cCMV.
Unlike most of the other conditions on the newborn screening panel, which are inherited typically through the genes of one or both parents, congenital cytomegalovirus is an infectious disease. It will be the first infectious disease added to the panel.
Congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) is the most common viral infection in newborns. It is estimated that as many as 290 babies out of 65,000 born each year in Minnesota will have cCMV. Congenital CMV occurs when the infection is passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby and can cause a range of health problems. About 10% of newborns are symptomatic at birth. Symptoms at birth may include a small head, rash, jaundice, and an enlarged liver and spleen. These children are also at risk for intellectual disabilities, hearing loss, vision loss and other health problems.
The remaining 90% of children with cCMV have no signs of infection at birth but about 10% are at risk for permanent hearing loss. If detected early, children with cCMV may benefit from antiviral drugs, therapies, and intervention of hearing loss, (for example, sign language, hearing aids, and cochlear implants).
Commissioner Malcolm signed the order Friday, Jan. 28, directing the department’s Newborn Screening Program to begin the steps needed to implement cCMV screening. While most newborn conditions on the panel are screened using laboratory methods that analyze dried bloodspots from newborns, the department has yet to determine exactly what laboratory method will be used to screen for cCMV. That’s one of the reasons health officials say it will be a number of months before the first babies are screened in Minnesota. Other steps include validating a test method, developing result and follow-up protocols, and working with external partners to establish clinical guidelines. MDH will communicate a start date as implementation gets closer.
Minnesota has one of the most comprehensive newborn screening programs in the country. Since 1964 when Minnesota started screening for PKU (phenylketonuria), all Minnesota newborns have had a blood sample sent to MDH for newborn screening unless their parents opted out of screening. As scientific knowledge has advanced, Minnesota has expanded its newborn screening panel to help detect more conditions with beneficial interventions and/or treatment.
The Vivian Act was passed in 2021 authorizing MDH to educate pregnant women and their health care providers about cCMV. This legislation also required that the Advisory Committee on Heritable and Congenital Disorders review cCMV as a possible candidate condition for inclusion on the newborn screening panel. The committee finished that work and on Jan. 11 made its recommendation that cCMV be added to the panel. The commissioner received the package Jan. 26.
“We thank the advisory committee and the workgroups for laying the foundation for this addition through their research and background work,” Malcolm said. “Future generations of Minnesota’s children and families will be healthier thanks to their work.”