Cytomegalovirus (CMV) pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can occur in people who have a suppressed immune system.
CMV pneumonia is caused by a member of a group of herpes-type viruses. Infection with CMV is very common. Most humans are exposed to CMV in their lifetime, but typically only individuals with weakened immune systems become ill from CMV infection
Serious CMV infections can occur in people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as:
- Bone marrow transplant
- Chemotherapy or other treatments that suppress the immune system
- Organ transplant
In people who have had organ and bone marrow transplants, the risk of infection is greatest 5 - 13 weeks after the transplant.
In otherwise healthy people, CMV usually produces no symptoms, or it produces a temporary mononucleosis-type illness. Those with a weakened immune system can develop serious symptoms, however. Symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests
The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam. In addition, the following tests may be done:
The objective of treatment is to stop the virus from copying in the body through the use of antiviral drugs. Some people with CMV pneumonia will need to get medication through a vein (intravenously). Some people might initially need oxygen therapy and breathing support with a ventilator to maintain oxygen until the infection is brought under control.
Antiviral medications stop the virus from copying itself, but do not destroy it. The CMV suppresses the immune system, and may increase your risk of other infections.
Low oxygen levels in the blood in people with CMV pneumonia often predicts death, especially in patients who need to be placed on a breathing machine.
Complications of CMV infection in people with AIDS include spread of disease to other parts of the body:
- CMV pneumonia
- Esophageal disease
- Intestinal disease
- Inflammation of the retina (CMV retinitis)
Complications of CMV pneumonia include:
- Kidney impairment (from drugs used to treat the condition)
- Low white blood cell count (from drugs used to treat the condition)
- Overwhelming infection that doesn't respond to treatment
- Return of CMV infections
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of CMV pneumonia.
The following procedures have been shown to help prevent CMV pneumonia in certain patients:
- Using organ transplant donors who don't have CMV
- Using CMV-negative blood products for transfusion
- Using CMV-immune globulin in certain patients
Preventing AIDS avoids certain other diseases, including CMV, that can occur in people who have a weakened immune system. Certain people with AIDS who have a CD4 count of less than 50 cells/microliter should consider taking preventive treatment for CMV.
Pneumonia - cytomegalovirus; Cytomegalovirus pneumonia; Viral pneumonia
Drew WL. Cytomegalovirus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Goldman's Cecil Medicine
Update Date 11/20/2013
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.