CMV (cytomegalovirus) (cont.)
Primary (or the initial) CMV infection in the immunocompromised patient can cause serious disease. However, the more common problem is the reactivation of the dormant virus. Infection with CMV is a major cause of disease and death in immunocompromised patients, including organ transplant recipients, patients undergoing hemodialysis, patients with cancer, patients receiving immunosuppressive drugs, and HIV-infected patients. Pneumonia, retinitis (an infection of the eyes), and gastrointestinal disease are the common manifestations of disease. Because of this risk, exposing immunosuppressed patients to outside sources of CMV should be minimized. Whenever possible, patients without CMV infection should be given organs and/or blood products that are free of the virus.
Most infections with CMV are not diagnosed because the virus usually produces few, if any, symptoms and tends to reactivate intermittently without symptoms. However, persons who have been infected with CMV develop antibodies to the virus, and these antibodies persist in the body for the lifetime of that individual. A number of laboratory tests that detect these antibodies to CMV have been developed to determine if infection has occurred and are widely available. In addition, the virus can be cultured from specimens obtained from urine, throat swabs, and tissue samples to detect active infection.
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012
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