Alternate Names : Cytomegalovirus – immunocompromised host
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of a group of herpes-type viruses that can cause disease in different parts of the body in people. This article discusses CMV in people with weakened immune systems.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Most humans are exposed to CMV in their lifetime, but typically only individuals with weakened immune systems become ill from CMV infection. Usually, CMV produces no symptoms. However, serious CMV infections can occur in people with weakened immune systems due to AIDS, organ transplants, bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, or medicines that suppress the immune system.
A CMV infection may affect different parts of the body. Infections include:
- CMV esophagitis (infection of the esophagus)
- CMV gastroenteritis (infection of the stomach or intestines)
- CMV retinitis (infection of the eye)
- CMV pneumonia (infection of the lung)
- Mononucleosis-like illness
Once a person becomes infected, the virus remains alive, but usually dormant, within that person’s body for life. Rarely does it cause recurrent disease, unless the person’s immune system is suppressed due to medication or disease. Therefore, for most people, CMV infection is not a serious problem.
Primary CMV infection in pregnant women can cause harm to the developing fetus. See: Congenital cytomegalovirus
Pictures & Images
Cytomegalovirus is a large herpes-type virus commonly found in humans that can cause serious infections in people with impaired immunity. The infection may result in pneumonia, gastroenteritis, retinitis or encephalitis. Antiviral medications may stop the replication of the virus but will not destroy it.
Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.
Review Date : 12/1/2009
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.