OBJECTIVE:

The goal of this study was to determine if congenital human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) infection influences early neurodevelopment.

METHODS:

We enrolled 57 newborns with HHV-6 congenital infection and 242 control newborns without congenital infection into a prospective, double-blind study with 4 visits between 4 and 30 months of age. Assessments included the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence, the Visual Expectation Paradigm, and the Mental Development Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II. Newborn audiology screening and follow-up audiology examinations were completed at 12 to 24 months.

RESULTS:

No differences were noted in baseline characteristics between infants with HHV-6 congenital infection and control infants. No clinical syndrome due to congenital infection with HHV-6 was evident at birth. No differences were identified on the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence or the Visual Expectation Paradigm between the two groups. In 39 infants with HHV-6 congenital infection, the mean ± SD Bayley Scale of Infant Development II MDI score was 103.4 ± 8.9 at 12 months of age. The matched control infants had a mean score of 105.4 ± 12.4. After controlling for covariates, HHV-6 congenital infection was associated with lower scores on the Bayley Scale of Infant Development II MDI at 12 months of age (mean difference: 4.3 [95% confidence interval: 0.4 to 8.1]; P = .03) compared with infants without HHV-6 congenital infection.

CONCLUSIONS:

Congenital HHV-6 infection may have a detrimental effect on neurodevelopment at 12 months of age and requires further study given that congenital infection with HHV-6 is present in ∼1 in every 101 births.

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