A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that the diversity seen in human cytomegalovirus infection is a result of mixed cytomegalovirus infections. This is a potentially important finding for the development of a vaccine, researchers said.
Judith Breuer, MD, MRCPath, FRCPath, professor of virology and co-director of the division of infection and immunity at the University College London, and colleagues wrote that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) affects 45% to 100% of adults. Although generally asymptomatic, the virus causes significant morbidity and mortality in infants, as well as congenital defects, blindness and organ transplant failure.
Previous research has shown that HCMV has high genetic diversity, suggesting that it has a high mutation rate — similar to RNA viruses.
“It has been claimed that HCMV is as diverse as the more error-prone RNA viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C virus, and this has led to a lot of confusion in the field,” Breuer said in a press release.
However, Breuer and colleagues analyzed immunocompromised patient blood samples using next-generating genome sequencing and found that HCMV does not mutate any more than other DNA viruses.
“Using our novel genome sequencing and bioinformatics modelling approaches, we have shown that apparently high HCMV diversity seen in some clinical samples is caused not by HCMV mutation, rather, it is due to frequent coinfection with multiple strains of HCMV,” she said.
Breuer suggested that this is potentially good news in terms of vaccine development.
“Our study confirms for the first time that HCMV mutation rates are similar to other DNA viruses, providing some reassurance for the development of vaccines, as unlike the hyper-diverse RNA viruses, HCMV is unlikely to mutate to evade vaccines,” she said. – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.