What is CMV?

Posted by Pozziepinoy on 4:22 PM


(Source: 101Questions and Answers About HIV and AIDS, 2nd Ed., by Joel Gallant, MD, MPH)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) means "big cell virus", because cells infected with CMV are big. CMV is a type of herpesvirus, and like all herpesviruses, you don't get rid of it once you've got it. Since it's common and easily transmitted sexually, most people with HIV infection have already been exposed to it and have been infected.



CMV is rarely a problem for people with normal immune systems, including HIV-positive people with even moderate CD4 counts. You only have to worry about CMV when your CD4 count drops below 50. The most common complication of CMV is retinitis, an infection of the retina (the back of the eye), which can lead to blindness if not treated. Report visual changes to your doctor immediately if you have a low CD4 count. If your CD4 count is below 100, you should be seeing an ophthalmologist for screening at least once or twice a year.

CMV can also cause gastrointestinal problems, including painful ulcers in the oesophagus (esophagitis), or an infection of the stomach (gastritis), small intestine (enteritis) or colon (colitis) causing diarrhea and abdominal pain. CMV can also affect the nervous sytme, causing infection of the brain (encephalitis), the spinal cord (myelitis), or the spinal nerves (radiculitis, radiculopathy).

A positive anti CMV IgG antibody test means you've got the virus. There's not much to do about it other than to keep your CD4 count above 50. If the test is negative, then avoid CMV infection. Practice safe sex, and if you should ever need a transfusion, it should be with CMV-negative blood.







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