HIV Forum seeks more solutions for transplant recipients with CMV

September 22, 2016

multicolored pillsThe newest publication by the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research reviews current therapies and critiques ongoing clinical trials of new drugs to treat Cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus that poses a serious threat to transplant recipients on immunosuppressive treatment. While the range of patients who can be treated is currently limited, the authors see potential for broader reaching therapies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of adults in the U.S. over the age of 40 are infected with CMV. Once contracted, the virus remains in the infected individual for life. Though most people never show signs or symptoms, the virus may trigger cold-like symptoms and can occasionally instigate serious illnesses, including mononucleosis and even hepatitis in non-immunocompromised people. In those with weakened immune systems, symptoms are more common and severe. 

“CMV is associated with more disease, morbidity and mortality than is currently acknowledged,” writes lead author Megan McIntosh and her team. “Lack of acknowledgement, along with the complexity of disease in patient populations, has contributed to very slow progress toward finding better treatments.”

The paper, published this July in The Journal of Virus Eradication, calls for the creation of new therapies other than those currently in use. McIntosh and her team identify opportunities to develop therapies for underserved populations of CMV infected individuals, including “patients who have inflammation-dependent co-morbidities, complications associated with congenital or perinatal CMV infection, and those who have symptomatic primary infection, including pregnant women.” 

New classes of therapies would also hold the promise of curtailing the development of drug-resistant strains of the virus and decreasing levels of toxic side-effects commonly associated with some current therapies. McIntosh believes that addressing existing regulatory hurdles would allow a greater number of new trials to take place. 

The current medications reviewed include ganciclovir, valganciclovir, foscarnet, and cidofovir. The team also reviewed drugs in development, including maribavir, brincidofovir, and letermovir.

McIntosh is a UC Berkeley School of Public Health MPH candidate in Infectious Disease and Vaccinology and a graduate intern at the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research. The Forum, located in Washington, DC, is a program of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, operating with a unique cross-sector model. The Forum is owned collectively by patients, government agencies, academic institutions, industry leaders, and all those with an interest in advancing drug development and health research.

By Jaron Zanerhaft