An innovative medical trial will explore the use of antibodies as a means to prevent birth defects in babies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced.
The U.S. trial will involve cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibodies from human plasma. CMV infections in pregnant women are a common cause of birth defects.
Between 1 and 2 percent of women are affected by the infection during pregnancy, and among those, more than 30 percent pass on the infection to the fetus.
The trial, expected to be completed in 2016, will be headed by an Australian blood-plasma group called CSL that is donating $2.5 million worth of CMV antibodies, the NIH said.
Bill Rawlinson, of the University of New South Wales, said babies infected with CMV also are at risk of mental and physical disabilities, and in the rarest of cases, the infection is fatal. Rawlinson said the infections affect more babies that Down Syndrome.
“I think this is a good way of doing it, because we’ll get a definitive answer,” he told Fox News.
This month, about 150,000 pregnant women will be screened for the four-year trial. The goal is to target 400 to test the injected antibodies and 400 to receive a placebo.
No vaccine exists to prevent CMV infections, CSL lead researcher Andrew Cuthbertson said, but if the trial is a success, a vaccine could be made available within a decade.