Njue A, Coyne C, Margulis AV, Wang D, Marks MA, Russell K, Das R, Sinha A. The role of congenital cytomegalovirus infection in adverse birth outcomes: a review of the potential mechanisms. Viruses. 2020 Dec 24;13(1):E20. doi: 10.3390/v13010020.


Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a major cause of nonhereditary adverse birth outcomes, including hearing and visual loss, neurologic deficits, and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), and may contribute to outcomes such as stillbirth and preterm delivery. However, the mechanisms by which CMV could cause adverse birth outcomes are not fully understood. This study reviewed proposed mechanisms underlying the role of CMV in stillbirth, preterm birth, and IUGR. Targeted literature searches were performed in PubMed and Embase to identify relevant articles. Several potential mechanisms were identified from in vitro studies in which laboratory-adapted and low-passage strains of CMV and various human placental models were used. Potential mechanisms identified included impairment of trophoblast progenitor stem cell differentiation and function, impairment of extravillous trophoblast invasiveness, dysregulation of Wnt signaling pathways in cytotrophoblasts, tumor necrosis factor-α mediated apoptosis of trophoblasts, CMV-induced cytokine changes in the placenta, inhibition of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activity, and downregulation of trophoblast class I major histocompatibility complex molecules. Inherent challenges for the field remain in the identification of suitable in vivo animal models. Nonetheless, we believe that our review provides useful insights into the mechanisms by which CMV impairs placental development and function and how these changes could result in adverse birth outcomes.

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