Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

What specialists treat cytomegalovirus infections?

Specialists usually become involved in the care of complicated cases of CMV or when preventive treatment is needed. Most complicated cases are in individuals who have weakened immune systems, usually due to HIV, cancer chemotherapy, or bone and organ transplantation. Because CMV may affect any organ system, multiple specialists may take part in the management, such as gastroenterologists (digestive system specialists) or pulmonologists (lung specialists). An infectious-disease specialist is often consulted as part of the care team to assist with monitoring, preventive antivirals or treatment of active infection. Pediatric infectious-disease specialists may manage the care of infants with congenital CMV.

How do physicians diagnose cytomegalovirus infection?

Most CMV infections go undiagnosed because the virus causes little to no symptoms. When a person is infected with CMV, antibodies (proteins) to the virus called IgM and/or IgG anti-CMV antibodies develop and stay in the body for the rest of the person's life. A blood test to detect the antibodies will be positive if the person has had a CMV infection. If the antibody test is negative, the person is considered to be uninfected with CMV.

If a "definitive" diagnosis of active CMV infection is necessary, the virus can be found in bodily fluids (such as blood, saliva, or urine) or body tissues by culturing (growing) the virus or detecting its DNA or specific protein called pp65 antigen by PCR tests. These tests are done if a person has signs and symptoms consistent with an active CMV infection. The virus can become reactivated from its latent state (latent infection) when a person's immune system has weakened. Tissue biopsy of affected body systems may sometimes show clumps of CMV in the cells, called "inclusion bodies." CMV inclusion bodies make the infected cell look like an "owl's eye" under the microscope.

These tests may be done if a woman develops symptoms of CMV infection during pregnancy in order to provide counseling and possible treatment for congenital CMV. They may also be done to diagnose a congenital CMV infection if CMV is detected in a newborn's urine, saliva, blood, or other body tissues within two to three weeks after birth.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2016

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