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Severe cytomegalovirus infection in apparently immunocompetent patients: a systematic review

Petros I Rafailidis12, Eleni G Mourtzoukou1, Ioannis C Varbobitis1 and Matthew E Falagas123*

Author Affiliations

1 Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS), Athens, Greece

2 Department of Medicine, Henry Dunant Hospital, Athens, Greece

3 Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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Virology Journal 2008, 5:47  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-5-47

Published: 27 March 2008



The morbidity and mortality associated with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in immunocompromised patients (especially in HIV-infected patients and transplant recipients), as well as with congenital CMV infection are well known. In contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to the morbidity and mortality that CMV infection may cause in immunocompetent patients.


We reviewed the evidence associated with severe manifestations of CMV infection in apparently immunocompetent patients and the potential role of antiviral treatment for these infections. We searched in PubMed, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library for the period of 1950–2007 to identify relevant articles.


We retrieved 89 articles reporting on severe CMV infection in 290 immunocompetent adults. Among these reports, the gastrointestinal tract (colitis) and the central nervous system (meningitis, encephalitis, transverse myelitis) were the most frequent sites of severe CMV infection. Manifestations from other organ-systems included haematological disorders (haemolytic anaemia, thrombocytopenia), thrombosis of the venous or arterial vascular system, ocular involvement (uveitis), and lung disease (pneumonitis). The clinical practice reported in the literature has been to prescribe antiviral treatment for the most severe manifestations of monophasic meningoencephalitis (seizures and coma), ocular involvement, and lung involvement due to CMV.


Severe life-threatening complications of CMV infection in immunocompetent patients may not be as rare as previously thought.