Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that infects people of all ages. Most people don’t know that the herpes virus is a big family that includes more than typical herpes growing in the genitals and lips. It also includes systemic diseases such as cytomegalovirus. But what is it about, and how do you know you have cytomegalovirus?
In this article, we will cover the most critical aspects of cytomegalovirus, including a review of the virus itself, how frequent and dangerous it is, signs and symptoms, and the medical management of this disease.
What is Cytomegalovirus?
As noted above, cytomegalovirus is a member of the family Herpesviridae, along with herpes simplex virus and varicella-zoster virus. However, cytomegalovirus does not have such an affinity with the skin and mucosa, and it does not cause the same signs and symptoms. It has a higher affinity towards lymphatic and glandular, which is why the symptoms are mainly found in inner organs and immune tissue.
Cytomegalovirus is a DNA virus with a double-stranded molecule covered with an envelope. The DNA in cytomegalovirus is larger than others in the Herpesviridae family. What it does inside the body is infect cells and use the cell machinery to multiplicate. Humans are the only hosts of cytomegalovirus, and it doesn’t grow in other types of cells.
Is it a dangerous disease?
This disease is very specific for us humans, and it is often asymptomatic. That’s why it is difficult to say how frequent it is in certain populations because not all people will develop signs and symptoms. The symptomatology changes in different individuals. It is so widespread in humans that almost every individual in the United States is expected to become infected at least once in their lifetime.
It is usually not a dangerous disease unless certain circumstances are met. For example, cytomegalovirus can be very dangerous in people with HIV or those with significant immunocompromise. Patients with a marrow transplant and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs are at a higher risk. In these patients, cytomegalovirus may lead to life-threatening interstitial pneumonia with a 15-75% mortality rate, depending on the patient and the condition.
Cytomegalovirus is notably one of the most common severe viral conditions in transplant patients. These patients should be evaluated to reduce their risk, and any alarming signs should be reported to start therapy as soon as possible. It is also possible to pass down the infection to the newborn through the birth canal, resulting in motor, cognitive, and hearing impairments.