Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus related to the group of herpes viruses, that may cause flu-like symptoms in healthy people and symptoms similar to mononucleosis in people with a weakened immune system.
Cytomegalovirus infection is very common worldwide (it is believed that more than 50% of adult population have been infected at some point in their lives). It does not cause disease in people with a competent immune system or just a simple cold.
However, it may cause serious problems in people with a weakened immune system or in babies infected with CMV before birth (congenital cytomegalovirus).
CMV remains inactive (dormant) within the body for life after the initial infection. It usually reactivates when the immune system is stressed.
Cytomegalovirus is passed between people through contact with body fluids. It can be spread through:
In a healthy person, initial CMV infection often occurs without any symptoms or just like a simple cold. Occasionally, a first-time infection with CMV may cause a mild illness called mononucleosis.
The most common symptoms are:
In people with a weakened immune system, CMV infection can cause more serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses. These illnesses include:
Babies infected before birth or during delivery may develop diseases later in childhood. About 20% of these babies will later develop severe hearing impairments. Some babies (the most affected ones) may develop soon after birth symptoms such as:
In order to get a proper diagnosis, the following test can be performed:
Healthy people who are infected with CMV usually do not require medical treatment. Most patients usually recover within 4 to 6 weeks. Analgesics can be used for the related symptoms.
In patients with a weakened immune system, it is usually prescribed antiviral drugs (Ganciclovir, Valganciclovir, Valaciclovir). Foscarnet or Cidofovir may also be prescribed for resistant cases but they must be administered with caution because these drugs have significant side effects.