Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of the herpes virus group, which includes the viruses that causes chicken pox, mononucleosis ("mono") and herpes simplexes 1 and 2. The viruses all share the ability to remain dormant in the body for a long time.

How Is CMV Spread?

CMV can be spread through bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, blood, tears, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. CMV is spread from person to person and has been known to spread in households with children or in daycare centers.

How Does CMV Affect The HIV Infected?

CMV in the immuno-compromised person can cause serious disease. It has been a major cause of death among people living with HIV/AIDS. Pneumonia Retinitis (infection in the eyes) and gastrointestinal disease are the most common problems associated with CMV. CMV can also cause blindness. So, for those of us living with HIV and AIDS we should be particularly careful to avoid contact with an infected individual as much as possible.

How Can You Prevent Transmission?

Wash your hands often. Since CMV is spread from person to person, using condoms would protect you from sexual transmission. It's also a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are going to be receiving a blood transfusion because they don't check the blood for CMV. If you work in a daycare center you need to be extra cautious.

Diagnosis of CMV

CMV infections are rarely diagnosed because the virus produces few, if any symptoms. As with HIV, the body develops antibodies to the virus and there are a number of lab tests that can detect the antibodies. Also the virus can be cultured from urine, throat swabs, and tissue samples. Some of the most common symptoms are symptoms that would occur if you had mononucleosis or hepatitis. If a person tests negative for mono or hepatitis then a costly CMV test should be done.

Treatment for CMV

There is currently no cure for CMV. However there are several therapies available for CMV treatment, including:

  • Daily intravenous (directly into the vein) infusions of ganciclovir (Cytovene®)
  • Foscarnet (Foscavir®)
  • Ganciclovir implant (Vitrasert®), a device containing Ganciclovir that is surgically implanted inside the eye and lasts for about 6-12 months)
  • Intravenous cidofovir (Vistide®)
  • Fomivirsen (Vitravene®), a product designed to be injected directly into the eye
  • Valganciclovir, which is a new version of oral Ganciclovir that is far better absorbed into the bloodstream than Ganciclovir.