Newswise — It's the leading cause of hearing loss (non-genetic) among newborn babies, but more than 91 percent of women don't even know about CMV (Cytomegalovirus).

Once a pregnant woman acquires CMV, there's a 1 in 3 chance she will pass it to her unborn child. We're talking about a common virus that's all around us, but to the unborn baby, it can be debilitating, and even deadly. Drs. Karen Fowler and Shannon Ross tell us what CMV is, why Birmingham, Ala., is a hot spot for CMV research and how pregnant mothers can protect themselves and their babies.

Featured speakers are Karen Fowler, Ph.D., and Shannon Ross, M.D., M.S.P.H.

Karen Fowler, Ph.D., is a Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Her research has focused on the epidemiology, natural history and pathogenesis of maternal and congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections and CMV-related sensorineural hearing loss in children. Dr. Fowler was part of the NIDCD-funded CHIMES study that screened over 100,000 newborns for congenital CMV infection. New findings from the study include the development of a highly sensitive and specific PCR-based assay for testing newborn saliva samples to identify babies infected with CMV and further understanding of the rates of congenital CMV infection and CMV-related hearing loss in the U.S. Dr. Fowler has also investigated targeted clinical CMV screening in infants who do not pass their hospital newborn hearing screenings. Some of her current work focuses on behavioral interventions to prevent maternal CMV infections during pregnancy.

Shannon Ross, M.D., M.S.P.H., is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Ross earned her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. She completed her pediatric residency and pediatric infectious diseases fellowship at UAB. During her fellowship training, Dr. Ross also earned an MSPH in clinical research at the University of Alabama School of Public Health. Dr. Ross is an active clinician and researcher focusing on the natural history and pathogenesis of congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection with special emphasis on translational research exploring virological and clinical markers of outcome in CMV-related hearing loss.

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