Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a herpes virus that commonly affects people though it does not cause serious problems except during pregnancy, and unless the affected individual has a weak immunity.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Cytomegalovirus
Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus is a silent virus that does not reveal its presence in healthy adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 50% of people below 40 years of age are affected by cytomegalovirus.

The virus can remain dormant in the body fluids of an infected person such as blood, urine, breast milk, saliva, tears, semen, vaginal fluids etc. without causing trouble. However, when it is transmitted to a person whose immune system is not strong enough, the virus can get reactivated.

Symptoms

In healthy adults, cytomegalovirus infection can give no characteristic symptoms. They may survive without ever knowing that they are infected with the virus. When individuals with strong immunity contract cytomegalovirus for the first time, they may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

·         Fatigue

·         Muscle aches

·         Fever

·         Sore throat

·         Swollen glands

When cytomegalovirus infects persons of weak immune system, like an HIV patient, the signs can be more severe. Here are some signs of cytomegalovirus infection in weaker adults:

·         Vision problems – blurred vision, floaters, blind spots, blindness

·         Digestive system problems – gastrointestinal pain, bleeding and discomfort

·         Liver problems – fever, inflamed liver

·         Respiratory problems – shortness of breath, pneumonia

Newborns infected with cytomegalovirus during gestation or post birth do not show signs of infection initially, but may develop symptoms later. The common signs of cytomegalovirus infection in babies include:

·         Premature birth

·         Juvenile jaundice

·         Hearing impairment

·         Pneumonia        

·         Seizures

Causes

Cytomegalovirus is spread from one person to another through body fluids, during pregnancy, at the time of birth or through other modes as detailed below:

Through body fluids: Casual touch with an infected person does not transmit the virus; however, coming in contact with the body fluids - blood, urine, breast milk, saliva, tears, semen, vaginal fluids – of an infected individual can pass on the virus.

From mother to Baby: Cytomegalovirus can be passed from the mother to the fetus if the pregnant mother is infected with the virus. It can also be transmitted soon after birth through breastfeeding.

Blood transfusion, Organ transplants, Sexual intercourse: Blood transfusion or organ transplants from CMV-infected person to a healthy individual transmits the virus. Having sexual contact with an infected person can also transmit the infection.

Diagnosis

Cytomegalovirus infection is diagnosed through a blood test in a laboratory. The blood sample of the infected patient will test positive for antibodies against the virus.

Other diagnostic procedures include biopsy of tissue from the affected organ like liver.

Congenital cytomegalovirus infections are detected by testing the blood sample of the newborn within three weeks after birth.

Prevention and treatment

 

Prescription drugs and anti-viral medications are available to keep the virus under control. Cytomegalovirus vaccine is still under development, which can prevent pregnant mothers from contracting the virus and transmitting to the baby. Personal hygiene practices such as keeping hands clean, refraining from sharing drinking glasses and using a condom during sex can prevent the spread of cytomegalovirus. 

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