WASHINGTON – Daily treatment with valacyclovir for at least 6 weeks safely cut the cytomegalovirus (CMV) vertical transmission rate from mothers to fetuses in women with a primary CMV infection during the three weeks before conception through their first trimester. That finding emerged from a randomized, controlled, single-center Israeli study with 92 women.
The rate of congenital fetal infection with CMV was 11% among neonates born to 45 women treated with 8 g/day of valacyclovir, compared with a 30% rate among the infants born to 47 women who received placebo, a statistically significant difference, Keren Shahar-Nissan, MD, said at an annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases. The results also showed that the valacyclovir regimen was well tolerated, with no increase compared with placebo in adverse events and with no need for dosage adjustment regardless of a 16 pill/day regimen to deliver the 8 g/day of valacyclovir or placebo that participants received.
Dr. Shahar-Nissan said that she and her associates felt comfortable administering this amount of valacyclovir to pregnant woman given previous reports of the safety of this dosage for both women and their fetuses. These reports included 20 pregnant women safely treated for 7 weeks with 8 g/day during the late second or early third trimester (); more than 600 women in a Danish nationwide study treated with any dosage of valacyclovir during preconception, the first trimester, or the second or third trimesters with a prevalence of births defects not significantly different from unexposed pregnancies ( ); and a prospective, open-label study of 8 g/day valacyclovir to treat 43 women carrying CMV-infected fetuses starting at a median 26 weeks gestation and continuing through delivery ( ).
Theshe ran enrolled women seen at Helen Schneider Hospital for Women in Petah Tikva, Israel, during November 2015-October 2018 who had a serologically-proven primary CMV infection that began at any time from 3 weeks before conception through the first trimester, excluding patients with renal dysfunction, liver disease, bone-marrow suppression, or acyclovir sensitivity. Screening for active CMV infection is common among newly-pregnant Israeli women, usually at the time of their first obstetrical consultation for a suspected pregnancy, noted Dr. Shahar-Nissan, a pediatrician at Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel in Petah Tikva. About a quarter of the enrolled women became infected during the 3 weeks prior to conception, and nearly two-thirds became infected during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy.
The valacyclovir intervention appeared to be effective specifically for preventing vertical transmission of infection acquired early during pregnancy. In this subgroup the transmission rate was 11% with valacyclovir treatment and 48% on placebo. Valacyclovir seemed to have no effect on vertical transmission of infections that began before conception, likely because treatment began too late to prevent transmission.
“I think this study is enough” to convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to add this treatment indication to the labeling of valacyclovir, a drug that has been available infor many years, Dr. Shahar-Nissan said in an interview. Before approaching the FDA, her first goal is publishing the findings, she added.