Although cytomegalovirus (CMV) is highly prevalent across all parts of the globe and has severe repercussions for high-risk populations, the general public is largely unaware and uneducated about the virus or Moderna’s pending vaccine.
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a “highly prevalent herpesvirus” that infects a substantial portion of the population across all nations worldwide, according to the Journal of Pathogens.
- Notably, the virus is the “largest herpesvirus to infect humans,” with a prevalence of almost 100% in regions such as Africa and Asia, and a similarly high infection rate of 80% in Europe and North America.
- In parallel, CMV is also the “leading cause of congenital viral infection” globally, although it can also be transmitted outside of the womb through a variety of bodily fluids including saliva, urine, blood, tears, semen and breast milk.
- As such, CMV can easily infect people of all ages and from all backgrounds, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) report that 33% of children are infected by the age of five and over 50% of adults are infected by the age of 40.
- Despite this nearly ubiquitous infection rate, CMV is “usually asymptomatic” in those who are infected and can operate as a “persistent latent virus.”
- This is particularly the case when a host is “immunocompetent” or has a strong immune system, however healthy individuals sometimes experience mild symptoms from the virus (e.g., fever, sore throat), per PLOS One and the CDC.
- However, CMV has been known to cause “severe” and even “life-threatening” outcomes in immunosuppressed individuals, including newborn neonates, transplant recipients, blood transfusion patients and persons infected with AIDS.
- In these instances, CMV is notoriously difficult to diagnose because it can “mimic a range of different manifestations“), and associated treatments such as valganciclovir can have “serious side effects.”
- Combined with the fact that there is “no approved vaccine for the prevention of CMV infection,” CMV is viewed as a “critical health concern for high-risk populations.”
Awareness of CMV
- In stark contrast to the prevalence of CMV, awareness of the virus among the general population is “relatively poor.”
- Perhaps most notably, the National CMV Foundation estimates that only 9% to 20% of women globally have even heard of CMV, let alone understand its transmission or potential implications.
- This estimate is corroborated by academic research, such as a 2019 study published in PLOS One which found that “only 20% of study participants had previously heard of CMV,” and that this awareness did not improve among key populations such as recently-pregnant women.
- Surprisingly, available research also indicates that knowledge related to the virus is also poor among medical practitioners.
- A 2017 research study in the US found that while 52% of surveyed medical professionals self-reported their awareness of CMV, only 18% “demonstrated understanding” of how the virus is transmitted.
- Subsequent studies in other parts of the world similarly found that knowledge of CMV “contains several gaps” among professionals such as “general practitioners, pediatricians, gynecologists, internal and other medical specialists.”
- As such, government and nonprofit organizations such as the CDC are actively working to educate the public about CMV with initiatives such as National CMV Awareness Months and other awareness campaigns.
Awareness of Moderna Vaccine
- Consistent with the lack of general awareness about CMV, the wider population appears largely unaware of Moderna’s forthcoming vaccine to combat the virus.
- Specifically, and extensive review of traditional media outlets (e.g., Barron’s, Biopharma Dive), social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), CMV associations and nonprofits (e.g., National CMV Foundation) and other forums indicates that the business and medical community are the only populations with a meaningful level of awareness about Moderna’s CMV vaccine.
- In particular, the plethora of top-tier business media outlets (e.g., Bloomberg, Barron’s) and medical industry trades (e.g., Biopharma Dive, BioSpace) covering news of Moderna’s CMV vaccine highlights a general level of awareness regarding this subject among these niche populations.
- In contrast, the response of the general public to news about Moderna’s forthcoming vaccine has been limited, as evidenced by the fact that Moderna’s recent social media posts about its CMV vaccine received almost no response (e.g., 1 comment, 3 shares, 16 likes on Facebook; 5 retweets, 8 likes on Twitter).
- As such, the research team was unable to identify any substantial commentary from CMV sufferers about Moderna’s related vaccine development efforts, apart from curated videos/comments provided on Moderna’s website.