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DefinitionCytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of a group of herpes-type viruses that can cause many diseases, including retinitis (an inflammation of the retina of the eye).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cytomegalovirus, also known as CMV, is very common. The majority of adults have antibodies to CMV in their blood (indicating they have been infected) by age 40. Usually, CMV produces no symptoms. However, serious CMV infections can occur in people with impaired immunity (immunocompromised hosts), such as those with AIDS .
People undergoing chemotherapy, which weakens the immune system, or those receiving immunosuppressive drugs for bone marrow or organ transplants, are also vulnerable.
One serious CMV infection is CMV retinitis, which can cause blindness. Retinitis usually begins in one eye, but often progresses to the other eye. Without treatment, progressive retinal destruction will lead to blindness in 4 to 6 months.
Even with continuous treatment, the disease can become worse, causing blindness. This may be because the virus becomes resistant to the drugs, so that the drugs are no longer effective, or because the patient's immune system has deteriorated further.
Patients with CMV retinitis also have a 25-40% of developing retinal detachment, in which the retina detaches from the nerves of the eye, causing blindness. Systemic CMV infection can also occur.
About 25% of people with AIDS develop CMV retinitis. Therefore, AIDS patients with a CD4 count of less than 100 cell/ mm 3 should be examined periodically for retinitis, even if they have none of the symptoms listed below.
An HIV positive individual with visual disturbances should seek medical attention and arrange for an exam.
Note: Many patients with CMV retinitis have no symptoms.
Signs and tests
CMV retinitis is diagnosed through a standard ophthalmologic exam. Dilation of the pupils and indirect ophthalmoscopy will show signs of CMV retinitis.
Diagnosis of CMV infection can be made through the following tests:
The objective of treatment is to prevent progression of the disease, which can lead to blindness. Therapy must be continued indefinitely, or until blindness occurs. Intravenous ganciclovir, foscarnet, and cidofovir have all been shown to improve CMV retinitis.
Once the patient is improving, the drugs can sometimes be taken orally instead. Sometimes, however, CMV is resistant to these drugs. Also, ganciclovir can deplete white blood cells, and cidofovir and foscarnet can cause kidney damage.
Ganciclovir and foscarnet can also be given as intravitreal implants. Intravitreal implants are small capsules of medications surgically inserted into the eye. They deliver a very high dose of medication to the eye.
Oral anti-CMV agents should be taken along with the implants, which must be changed every eight months. These implants have been shown to be beneficial in reducing progression of CMV retinitis.
Fomivirsen, a drug recently approved by the FDA, is injected directly into the eye.
Progression of the disease is common, even when therapy continues, because antiviral medications stop the replication of the virus but do not destroy it. CMV is itself immunosuppressive and may worsen the symptoms of other causes of immunosuppression .
Calling your health care providerIf symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop, call your health care provider.
Symptomatic CMV infection normally occurs only in immunocompromised individuals. Avoiding the primary cause of immune deficiency, AIDS, will therefore prevent symptomatic CMV infection.
Individuals with HIV should begin anti-HIV medications. Individuals undergoing chemotherapy, taking anti-rejection medications for transplant, or undergoing cortisone therapy should report any visual abnormalities to their doctor.
Update Date: 2/3/2004Kenneth Wener, M.D., Division of Infectious Diseases, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT