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Background: Detection of cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) in dried blood spots (DBSs) collected for newborn screening has been assessed for retrospective diagnosis of congenital CMV (cCMV) infection, with variable results (sensitivities ranging from 34% to 100%). We aimed to assess the accuracy of this technique in Spain in a large patient series.

Methods: Ambispective, multicenter study including patients with confirmed cCMV from the Spanish Registry of cCMV patients. cCMV was established on the presence of CMV DNA in any body fluid, by positive culture findings or by molecular techniques during the first 2 weeks of life. Children in whom cCMV had been excluded were used as negative controls. Neonatal DBS samples were collected from both groups. The presence of CMV DNA was assessed by rt-PCR (RealStar CMV, Altona, Germany) in a central laboratory.

Results: One-hundred three patients and 81 controls from 10 hospitals were included. The performance of CMV DNA determination in DBS for the diagnosis of cCMV was as follows (95% confidence interval): sensitivity 0.56 (0.47-0.65), specificity 0.98 (0.91-0.99), positive likelihood ratio 22.81 (5.74-90.58) and negative likelihood ratio 0.45 (0.36-0.56). Sensitivity increased with the birth viral load (bVL) log category. In cCMV patients, lower bVL was the single variable associated with a negative DBS rt-PCR result (P = 0.017).

Conclusions: The sensitivity of CMV rt-PCR in DBS in our series was low and correlated with the bVL. Thus, a negative DBS result would not rule out cCMV infection, especially in patients with a low viremia level at birth.

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