Antibodies for Unborn Children Could Halt Fetal Defects, Lower Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Antibodies for Unborn Children Could Halt Fetal Defects, Lower Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 29, 2005

Rome, Italy ( — A group of Italian doctors reports it has been successful in using antibodies to halt the spread of dangerous viruses to their unborn children. The report is good news for protecting unborn children and it could help lower abortions in cases where parents don’t want a baby with physical or mental disabilities.

The doctors targeted Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which infects most people at some point with mild problems or none at all. But the disease can hurts unborn children and it is especially dangerous if a woman acquires it during her pregnancy.

In the study, the doctors injected highly concentrated antibodies to CMV into 31 women who became infected with the virus during pregnancy and whose unborn children were also infected. Only 3 percent of the babies were born with CMV compared to half of a group of 14 women who refused the treatment.

A second group of 37 women who were suspected of being infected also received the treatment. Of those, 16 percent had babies with CMV while 40 percent in a comparison group who did not get the treatment had it.

Statistics in the United States show CMV afflicts about 1 percent of newborns, or about 40,000, every year. Approximately 20 percent of infected unborn children die before birth or soon after.

Those who are born often have numerous medical conditions such as smaller heads, abnormal brains, liver or hearing damage or are mentally disabled. That leads some parents to have abortions.

Dr. Laura Riley, medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital, admitted to the Associated Press that abortion is normally presented to parents of CMV babies.

"Frankly, what we offer people now is pregnancy termination, and if you’re beyond the point where it’s legal, that’s not an option," she said.

Despite the findings, some observers are cautious about the results and they told the Associated Press that the study could be flawed because it was particularly small.

"It’s exciting, but imperfect," Dr. Patrick Duff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida College of Medicine who did not participate in the study, told AP. "If this all holds up in additional studies, then I think this is wonderful."

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University analyzed the results, which have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.