Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a ubiquitous virus with the ability to establish latency (dormancy) following primary infection, and can be reactivated particularly during episodes of immunosuppression. Once someone has been infected with CMV they have it for life. However, infections in healthy immunocompetent people are usually subclinical and asymptomatic, and the virus does not generally present a health risk to these individuals. However, CMV can cause severe illness for babies infected in utero during pregnancy and immunocompromised individuals such as transplant recipients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy.
Following the successful global introduction of rubella immunisation programs, CMV has become the most common viral cause of congenital malformation in developed countries like Australia. Congenital CMV infections of the fetus occur in approximately 0.3-0.6% of live births and 10-15% of these infections will be symptomatic, where petechiae, jaundice, hepatosplenomegaly, and central nervous system (CNS) involvement are common findings. Although rare, cytomegalic inclusion disease (CID) is a devastating illness that results from overwhelming congenital CMV infection involving multiple organs, which in the most severe cases can lead to intrauterine and perinatal death. Late onset sequelae such as sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and mental disability are also associated with fetal CMV infection during pregnancy. CMV infections are transmitted from mother to baby across the placenta. The CMV antiviral agents currently available for CMV cannot be used in pregnant women because of toxicity and other potential side effects.
CMV can also cause severe illness (hepatitis, pneumonitis, chronic gastroenteritis) in immunocompromised transplant recipient, which can lead to organ failure and death in severe cases. CMV exposure prior to transplantation and donor/recipient CMV immunity are important factors influencing the outcome of CMV infection in these patients. Treatment and prophylaxis with antiviral agents such as valganciclovir can reduce the impact of CMV infection and disease in transplant recipients, but emergence of antiviral resistant CMV can occur, and these infections become difficult to manage.
The CMV program is investigating the pathogenesis of CMV infection in at-risk groups. The research aims of the group are to:
1. Understand the pathogenic consequences of CMV placental infection and transmission, including the molecular and cellular changes induced by CMV replication. We particular look at CMV-induced cytokine changes in the placenta and the role these have in placental damage and adverse fetal outcomes.
2. Determine the viral and host factors that contribute to the outcome of CMV infection in transplant recipients.
3. Identify and characterise emerging antiviral resistant CMV strains
4. Investigate novel antiviral targets and potential intervention strategies that in the future may reduce or prevent CMV disease in babies and transplant recipients.
Most Recent Publications
1. Hamilton ST, Milbradt J, Marschall M, Rawlinson WD. (2014). Human cytomegalovirus replication is strictly inhibited by siRNAs targeting UL54, UL97 or UL122/123 gene transcripts. PLoS ONE 9(6): e97231.
2. Milbradt J, Kraut A, Hutterer C, Sonntag E, Schmeiser C, Ferro M, Wagner S, Lenac T, Claus C, Pinkert S, Hamilton ST, Rawlinson WD, Sticht H, Couté Y, Marschall M. (2014). Proteomic analysis of the multimeric nuclear egress complex of human cytomegalovirus. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M113.035782
3. Hamilton ST, Scott G, Naing Z, Rawlinson WD. (2013). Human Cytomegalovirus Directly Modulates Expression of Chemokine CCL2 (MCP-1) During Viral Replication. J Gen Virol. 94 (Pt 11):2495-503.
4. Basha J, Iwasenko JM, Robertson P, Craig ME, Rawlinson WD (2013) CMV seropositivity is related to socioeconomic status in pregnant women but not in children in Australia. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health (short communication) 50(5):368-72
5. Rajasekariah H, Scott G, Robertson PW, Rawlinson WD (2013) Improving diagnosis of primary cytomegalovirus infection in pregnant women using immunoblots. Journal of Medical Virology85(2):315-319
6. Hamilton ST, Scott GM, Naing Z, Iwasenko J, Hall B, Graf N, Arbuckle N, Craig ME, Rawlinson WD (2013) Human cytomegalovirus induces cytokine changes in the placenta with implications for adverse pregnancy outcomes. PLoS One (In Press)
7. Cotin S, Calliste CA, Mazeron M-C Hantz S., Duroux S., Rawlinson WD, Ploy M-C, Alain S (2012) Eight Flavonoids And Their Potential As Inhibitors Of Huma Cytomegalovirus Replication. Antiviral Research 96(2):181-186
8. Scott GM, Chow SSW, Craig ME, Pang C, Hall B, Wilkins M, Jones CA, Lloyd AR, Rawlinson WD (2012) Cytomegalovirus infection during pregnancy with materno-fetal transmission induces a pro-inflammatory cytokine bias in placenta and amniotic fluid. Journal of Infectious Diseases 205(8):1305-1310