Mother-Infant Health Programs

Immunologic and Virologic Determinants of Congenital Cytomegalovirus Transmission and Disease in Rhesus Monkeys

Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the leading infectious cause of birth defects and infant neurologic deficits, yet gaps in our knowledge of the protective maternal immune responses has impeded the development of a successful CMV vaccine to eliminate this cause of infant morbidity. The overarching goal of this Program is to end the stalemate in congenital CMV vaccine research by defining the key immune responses and viral-host interactions that dictate primary fetal CMV transmission and disease.

This five year program, led by Dr. Sallie Permar, brings together the three national primate centers (University of California Davis, Tulane, and Oregon Health Sciences University), with Duke as the central hub. This program is based on work that was made possible by an NIH DP2 grant Dr. Permar received where she and her team were able to establish the primate congenital CMV model and demonstrate that maternal antibodies alone can be protective. Dr. Permar and collaborative Investigator Dr. Peter A. Barry from the University of California will establish what vaccine targets are most critical for protection against congenital CMV transmission and disease.

Drs. Permar and Barry expect the work of this Program will identify immune responses and virologic-host interactions that will guide the design of the next generation of congenital CMV vaccines and will also refine the NHP model to tailor it for future CMV vaccine candidate testing.