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Cytomegalovirus - An Overview

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The common virus known as Cytomegalovirus is typically not harmful. Read further to know more.

Written by

Dr. Aysha Anwar

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At February 22, 2024
Reviewed AtMarch 1, 2024


One frequent virus is the cytomegalovirus (CMV). The body harbors this virus for life after infection. Since the cytomegalovirus (CMV) rarely causes difficulties in healthy individuals, most people are unaware they have it.

What Is Cytomegalovirus?

  • Cytomegalovirus is something to be concerned about if one is pregnant or has an impaired immune system.

  • When a pregnant woman contracts an active CMV infection, the virus can be transferred to the unborn child, who may subsequently show symptoms.

  • Cytomegalovirus infection can be lethal for those with compromised immune systems, particularly those who have received an organ, stem cell, or bone marrow transplant.

  • Fluids from the body, including blood, saliva, urine, semen, and breast milk, can transfer the cytomegalovirus virus from one person to another.

  • Although there is no treatment, some drugs can assist manage the symptoms.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cytomegalovirus?

When infected with cytomegalovirus, most healthy individuals may not show any symptoms. Some people only have mild symptoms.

The following individuals have a higher likelihood of exhibiting CMV symptoms and signs:

  • Newborns who contracted congenital cytomegalovirus, an infection that developed before birth.

  • Newborns who contract the infection either during labor or soon after (perinatal CMV). Among these babies are those who have been contaminated by breast milk.

  • Individuals with compromised immune systems, including those who have received an organ, bone marrow, or stem cell transplant or who are HIV positive.

Infants: The majority of congenital CMV newborns seem healthy at birth.

A small percentage of infants with congenital CMV who seem healthy at birth eventually show symptoms; in some cases, they do not show up for months or years. Developmental delay and hearing loss are the most prevalent among these late-occurring symptoms. A tiny percentage of infants may also experience visual issues.

In infants with congenital cytomegalovirus who are unwell at birth, the following indications and symptoms are more prevalent:

  • Early birth.

  • Low birth weight.

  • Jaundice, or yellow skin and eyes.

  • Enlarged and inefficient liver.

  • Spots of purple skin, a rash, or both.

  • Diminutive head size (microcephaly).

  • Enlarged spleen.

  • A case of pneumonia.

  • Convulsions.

  • Individuals with compromised immune systems.

The immune system is compromised and may encounter severe issues that impact the brain, lungs, liver, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

Healthy Individuals: Most healthy individuals with CMV infection show little to no symptoms. Some people may experience symptoms comparable to infectious mononucleosis when they are first infected, such as exhaustion, fever, sore throat, and muscle aches.

The viruses that cause mononucleosis, herpes simplex, and chickenpox are linked to CMV. CMV may go through cycles of dormancy followed by reactivation. CMV mostly remains dormant in healthy individuals.

People can contract the virus while it is active in the body. Body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva, tears, semen, and vaginal fluids can all transmit the virus. In casual contact, CMV is not transmitted.

Among the ways the virus might spread are:

  • Touching mouth, nose, or eyes after contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.

  • Having sex with an infected individual.

  • The mother's breast milk has the infection.

  • Blood transfusions, bone marrow, stem cells, or organ transplants.

  • Before or during delivery, an infected mother can transmit the virus to the unborn child. If one contracts the virus for the first time while pregnant, there is a greater chance that it will reach the unborn child.

What Are the Risk Factors of Cytomegalovirus?

The CMV virus is a frequent and widespread infection that can affect nearly everyone. The complications resulting from a CMV infection can differ based on general health status and the time of infection.

Healthy Individuals: Mononucleosis in a healthy adult is a rare side effect of CMV. For healthy individuals, liver, brain, neurological, and digestive system issues are uncommon.

What Are the Side Effects of Cytomegalovirus?

The possible side effects of CMV infection are:

  • Digestive System Issues: Issues such as liver (hepatitis), esophageal (esophagitis), and colon (colitis) inflammation.

  • Neurological Issues: Issues such as encephalitis or brain inflammation. Pneumonia inflammation of the light-sensing layer of the eye (retinitis) causes vision loss.

Children with congenital CMV: An infant is more likely to face difficulties if their mother contracted CMV for the first time when one is pregnant. Some of the baby's complications include:

  • Loss of hearing.

  • Mental illness.

  • Vision issues.

  • Convulsions.

  • Insufficient synchronization.

  • Instability or difficulty using muscles.

  • Avoidance.

Maintaining good cleanliness is the best defense against CMV. Observations that can be made include:

  • Hands-wash frequently. In particular, if one touches little children or their diapers, saliva, or other oral secretions, wash one’s hands for 15 to 20 seconds with soap and water. This is particularly crucial if the kids go to daycare.

  • When kissing a youngster, try not to get saliva and tears on one’s lips. For example, give a child a forehead kiss rather than a lip kiss. If one is expecting, this is crucial.

  • Steer clear of sharing food or glasses with other people. Using cooking utensils and glasses together can spread CMV.

  • When handling throwaway objects, use caution. Wash hands well before touching one’s face after handling materials contaminated with bodily fluids, such as tissues and diapers.

  • Clear countertops and playthings. Any surface that comes into contact with a child's pee or saliva should be cleaned.

  • Have safe sexual relations. When engaging in sexual activity, use a condom to stop the transmission of CMV through vaginal secretions and semen.

  • Antiviral medicine may be beneficial to prevent CMV illness if one has compromised immunity.

What Is the Treatment of Cytomegalovirus?

  • Fertile women are undergoing testing for experimental vaccinations. These vaccinations might help prevent CMV infection in moms and newborns and lower the risk of developmental problems in offspring born to infected pregnant women.

  • In general, healthy children and adults do not require treatment. When healthy adults contract CMV mononucleosis, they usually recover without needing medicine.

  • When a person exhibits symptoms of a CMV infection, treatment is necessary for newborns and those with compromised immune systems. The intensity of the indications and symptoms determines the kind of treatment that is needed.

  • Treatment with antiviral medicines is the most usual. It can hinder the virus's growth but not completely eradicate it. To treat and prevent CMV, researchers are investigating novel drugs and vaccinations.


Pregnancy-related (CMV) infection should be diagnosed based on the de novo development of virus-specific IgG in the serum of a previously seronegative pregnant woman or identifying a particular IgM antibody linked to poor IgG avidity. A significant proportion of newborns (40 to 60 percent) who have congenital CMV illness will experience long-term health issues, including hearing loss, loss of vision, and impairment of intellect.

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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases


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