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Newborn Saliva Can Help Detect Potential for Hearing Loss

Swabbing a newborn’s mouth for saliva is one way to quickly and effectively screen for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, a major cause of hearing loss in children.

Researchers in a recent national study found that saliva enabled them to correctly identify every baby born with the infection when the saliva sample was liquid, and 97.4 percent when dried saliva specimens were used.

Dr. Pablo Sanchez, a pediatrician at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the findings are important because few newborns display any clinical signs of CMV infection.

“Babies who test positive can be monitored for possible hearing loss, and if needed, provided with appropriate intervention as soon as possible,” says Dr. Sanchez, co-author of the study.

CMV is the most common infection passed from a mother to her unborn child. Each year, as many as 10 percent to 50 percent of the 20,000 to 30,000 babies infected with CMV at birth are at risk for having or developing hearing loss.
 
 

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