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Simple Test For Babies Could Help Spot A Virus That Damages Hearing - featured June 2, 2011

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Thanks to our Twitter friend @zealousidler for the heads up on this article!

[Source: NPR]

Babies who are born infected with cytomegalovirus, a common virus, can suffer permanent hearing loss, but newborns aren't routinely tested to see if they have it. That could change if a pediatrician at the University of Alabama in Birmingham has his way.

He's the leader on a new study that found that a simple saliva test can identify babies at risk. But testing all babies for cytomegalovirus is probably not going to happen anytime soon.

About 1 in 150 babies are born infected with the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is considered a major cause of hearing loss, second only to genetic causes.

About 20 to 40 percent of early childhood hearing loss is probably caused by CMV, according to Suresh Boppana, the professor of pediatrics at UAB who is lead author on the new study, which involved seven academic medical centers around the county. It was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But since only 10 percent of babies who are infected with CMV show any symptoms of illness, most parents aren't aware that their children have it. About 2,000 to 4,000 children in the United States have hearing loss caused by CMV each year.

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Tags: News of the Week Hearing Loss Newsletter 3 June 2011