Sunday, April 12, 2009


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of the herpesviruses group. It is commonly called Human Herpesvirus 5. CMV infections are typically of the salivary glands and can only be transfered through bodily fluid contact.

CMV infection is nearly ubiquitous in the worldwide population. By the time people are 6 years old, over 50% of them are infected with CMV. By the time they are 80 year old, over 90% of people are infected with CMV.

CMV infection is most often asymptomatic. Even the primary infection is rarely noticed. Once a person has contracted the virus, the body easily contains it through the production of antibodies and the disease becomes latent. However, there is no cure for the virus and it will remain in the system of the infected person forever.

Because so many people have CMV and are unaffected by it, the disease is allowed to spread among humans unabated. Children with CMV are allowed to mix freely with uninfected children. Primarily, because they are completely asymptomatic. People with CMV are allowed to donate blood, and CMV infected blood will be transfused into uninfected people as long as they aren't immunosuppressed. People with known immune system deficiencies receive blood from an uninfected pool.

In immunocompromised patients, such as those with HIV or those with organ transplants, CMV can be deadly. When the immune system is severely depressed, there are no longer enough antibodies to keep the CMV in check and the disease can kick back up in the system. When the disease reemerges it is called a secondary CMV infection. Secondary CMV infections can cause liver failure, eye damage, bowel inflammation and even meningitis (if it infects the spinal fluid.)

Immunocompromised patients who are experiencing CMV infection are treated with strong antivirals such as ganciclovir or valgancicolvir.

CMV infection in the womb is thought to be the cause of some birth defects.

Since this sick is rarely symptomatic and almost never fatal, and since most people are infected with it and experience no ill-effects, I rate it a
1 on my "lethality scale" (1-10)
and a 1 on my "disturbing scale" (1-10)

1 comment:

  1. It's not a "1" for preganant mothers and their unborn babies. If a woman is infected during pregancy CMV can cause acute symptomes and developmental disabilities, and even birth defects: