An expectant mother who kisses her toddler can put her unborn child at risk of a common virus that can lead to disability or death.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection that usually goes unnoticed or only causes mild symptoms in most people.
However, unborn babies who contract the virus in-utero can be born with physical, mental and developmental disabilities that include hearing loss, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
Despite CMV being the most infectious cause of disability in newborn babies and 20 times more common than listeria or toxoplasmosis, only one in six pregnant women have heard of it.
The virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids such as urine, saliva and nasal mucous.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid sharing drinks and cutlery with young children, avoid contact with saliva when kissing a child, and wash their hands for at least 15 seconds after changing nappies, blowing noses, or handling children's toys and dummies.
After Pam Rogers, 34, contracted CMV in-utero she was advised to terminate the pregnancy after doctors said her son's brain had not formed properly and he would die after birth.
Christopher, now 8, defied all odds and lives with multiple disabilities and delays.
"He's non-mobile, non-verbal and completely tube-fed, but he has the best smile and an ability to make your day good again … he's incredible," the Canberra mother of four said.
Rogers believed some held the opinion that telling expectant mothers about CMV would cause mass hysteria, but she said it was a mother's right to be properly educated and choose what to do with the information.
"Don't tell me what I can and cannot know about. Don't censor things … it should be about empowering women. We need to give pregnant women more credit.
"It frustrating that (CMV) is not widely talked about and people aren't educated when it affects people so widely."
Perth mother Stephanie Greally's twins Archer and Louis tested positive for the virus after they were born at 34 weeks by an emergency C-section in August 2021.
While Archer remains asymptomatic, Louis suffers from hearing loss, calcifications and enlarged ventricles.
Greally, 37, said she had never heard of CMV before her sons' diagnoses.
"If I had known it was out there and how it was transmitted, I would have been more diligent about kissing my toddler during my pregnancy," she said.
"I had no idea that any of the normal loving, caring and kissing my toddler was putting my unborn babies at risk."
There are no CMV vaccinations, but Moderna is working to develop one.
Ahead of CMV Awareness Month in June, CMVictory's clinical trial is targeting women aged 16-40 globally to participate in a 30-month trial.
UNSW's CMVictory principal investigator Raina MacIntyre said the aim was to make a vaccine with antibodies that would kill the virus and therefore stop unborn children from suffering congenital abnormalities.
"Rubella used to be one of the leading causes of congenital blindness and other deformities, but there is a successful vaccine program against it, so you hardly ever see congenital rubella anymore," she said.
"We haven't yet had an effective (CMV) vaccine. If there is one, which is what we're trying to find out though this trial, it will have a huge impact on congenital abnormalities due to an infection in children."
Women of child-bearing age who are not pregnant and have regular contact with young children, like a parent or teacher, are eligible to participate.
Both Rogers and Greally said if a CMV vaccine was available, they would have had it.
"I wouldn't change Christopher and his journey for the world, but I don't want others to go through what we've gone through," Rogers said.
To find out more or to participate, head to the CMVictory website.