BACKGROUND:

Very low birth weight (VLBW) and premature infants are at risk for developing postnatal cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease, including CMV-related sepsis-like syndrome (CMV-SLS) for which in the United States are lacking.

METHODS:

We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate the pooled proportions (and 95% confidence intervals) of VLBW and premature infants born to CMV-seropositive women with breast milk–acquired CMV infection and CMV-SLS. We combined these proportions with population-based rates of CMV seropositivity, breast milk feeding, VLBW, and prematurity to estimate annual rates of breast milk–acquired CMV infection and CMV-SLS in the United States.

RESULTS:

In our meta-analysis, among 299 infants fed untreated breast milk, we estimated 19% (11%–32%) acquired CMV infection and 4% (2%–7%) developed CMV-SLS. Assuming these proportions, we estimated a rate of breast milk–acquired CMV infection among VLBW and premature infants in the United States of 6.5% (3.7%–10.9%) and 1.4% (0.7%–2.4%) of CMV-SLS, corresponding to 600 infants with CMV-SLS in 2008. Among 212 infants fed frozen breast milk, our meta-analysis proportions were 13% (7%–24%) for infection and 5% (2%–12%) for CMV-SLS, yielding slightly lower rates of breast milk–acquired CMV infection (4.4%; 2.4%–8.2%) but similar rates of CMV-SLS (1.7%; 0.7%–4.1%).

CONCLUSIONS:

Breast milk–acquired CMV infection presenting with CMV-SLS is relatively rare. Prospective studies to better define the burden of disease are needed to refine guidelines for feeding breast milk from CMV-seropositive mothers to VLBW and premature infants.

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