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    Valnoctamide holds promise for CMV-induced deafness

    A drug used for mood stabilization may have potential for treating congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV)-related deafness, according to results of a mouse study presented at The Pregnancy Meeting. CMV is the leading infectious cause of non-hereditary sensorineural hearing loss in newborns and children and there are no treatments for infected fetuses and substantial safety concerns about postnatal therapy.   

    For the study, researchers from Yale University and the University of Milan-Bicocca used CMV infection in the auditory system of newborn mice to test the potential benefits of valnoctamide on long-term hearing. Brain development in such mice, the authors said, parallels that in an early second-trimester fetus.   

    On the day of birth, the mice were inoculated with 750 PFU of CMV and they received 1.4 mg of valnoctamide or vehicle daily from Days 1 to 21 of life. Controls were uninfected animals. The authors used qPCR and histochemistry at multiple time points post-infection to assess CMV load and distribution in the cochlea and central auditory regions. Hearing was investigated blindly using Auditory Brainstem Responses in 7-week-old mice.    

    The researchers detected CMV-infected cells in the mice in several areas of the inner ear, including the stria vascularis, temporal bone, and cochlea. The cells were also present in central components of the auditory system. Increased hearing thresholds were identified in the infected mice at multiple frequency tone stimuli.    

    Treatment with valnoctamide substantially reduced CMV load in the cochlea (P < 0.001 for treatment vs vehicle in infected mice) and the brain. It also ameliorated hearing development with restoration of normal auditory responses (P < 0.05 for treatment vs vehicle in infected mice).       

    The authors concluded that treatment with valnoctamide blocks CMV infection in the developing auditory system and rescues virally induced hearing impairment. Because of this potential and its lack of teratogenic activity, they said it “merits consideration as a novel approach in treatment CMV-mediated deafness during development.”  

    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is a a BELS-certified medical writer and editor and an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.
    Ben Schwartz
    Ben Schwartz is Associate Editor, Contemporary OB/GYN.

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