This is a common virus that has approximately 50% of people in their 40s. It is called cytomegalovirus (CMV) and can spread easily through saliva and other body fluids. However, if you have a strong immune system, this virus cannot provoke any health problems but in people with weakened immune systems, it may lead to some health problems.

In case someone with HIV gets this virus, it may lead to an eye infection (retinitis). This health condition may lead to blindness. Furthermore, CMV can also impact your esophagus, lungs, brain, nerves, or intestines.

Cytomegalovirus Infection Types

  • Congenital – It happens when CMV passes from biological mother to biological children before birth. Approximately 1 in 200 babies are born with this infection.
  • Primary – In such cases, a person gets this infection for the first time and it usually does not cause symptoms. However, in some cases, people may experience symptoms that look like mononucleosis.
  • Reactivation – It occurs when the infection reactivates again due to a weakened immune system. In such cases, people often experience HIV, cancer treatment, or an organ transplant.


Commonly, healthy people do not notice any symptoms. Check below who is more likely to develop CMV symptoms:

  • Newborns
  • Infants
  • People with HIV infection
  • Transplant procedures (including bone marrow or stem cell transplants)

Primary CMV Symptoms

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Antibiotic rash
  • Liver function changes
  • Mononucleosis syndrome

Rare Symptoms of Primary CMV

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Personality changes
  • Anemia
  • Dry cough
  • Rash
  • Enlarged spleen

Congenital CMV Symptoms

In most cases, babies born with CMV look healthy and do not have any symptoms. The CMV symptoms can appear over time. Check some examples below:

  • Premature delivery
  • Reduced size or weight at birth
  • Bruise-like rashes
  • Jaundice (yellow eyes or skin)
  • Swollen spleen and liver
  • Microcephaly (small head)
  • Seizures
  • Hearing loss
  • Pneumonia
  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • Vision changes
  • Motor and developmental delays

Severe CMV cases can provoke miscarriages. Talk with your doctor for more details.

CMV with HIV Symptoms

  • Blind spots in the eyesight
  • Blindness
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of central vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Swallowing problems
  • Confusion
  • Back pain
  • Weight loss
  • Leg weakness
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Breathing problems
  • Fever
  • Apathy
  • Withdrawal

In case you experience any of the previous symptoms, immediately contact your healthcare professional.


This infection belongs to a group called herpesvirus. This group also includes the following:

  • Herpes simplex virus 1 – It usually provokes oral herpes or cold sores.
  • Herpes simplex virus 2 – This type usually causes genital herpes.
  • Varicella-zoster virus – In such cases, people experience chickenpox and shingles.
  • Epstein-Barr virus – If a person gets this virus, they experience infectious mononucleosis.

How Does This Infection Pass from One Person to Another?

Usually, you cannot get this virus from casual contact but can get it by touching your nose, eyes, or mouth after being in contact with the body fluids of an infected person. For example:

  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Breast milk
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Semen
  • Saliva

This virus also can spread to other people by sexual contact, blood transfusion, or organ transplants. Furthermore, CMV spreads easily to others in places with many young children (including daycare centers). People with a weakened body’s defense (immune system) are also more likely to get CMV than those with a healthy immune system.


To diagnose this infection, your doctor will order you to do some tests. For example:

  • Urine and blood tests (including CMV antigen, virus culture, and PCR). They also can order you to do some serologic tests to check for IgM and IgG antibodies. Approximately all healthy people have them.
  • If your doctor is not sure whether you have this virus or not, they can perform a biopsy. A test that involves a small sample of tissue from the lungs, esophagus, or intestines and looking at it under a microscope.
  • Eye tests can be done to check for retina inflammation
  • Imaging tests also can help to confirm CMV

Consult with your physician for more details.


Those who do not experience any symptoms but have CMV, usually do not require any treatment. In any case, people with a weakened immune system can develop some health problems and often need treatment. The most common medications prescribed by doctors are antivirals. For example:

  • Acyclovir
  • Cidofovir
  • Foscarnet
  • Ganciclovir
  • Leflunomide
  • Letermovir
  • Maribavir
  • Valganciclovir

The medications listed above cannot cure the infection but help to lessen the symptoms and boost the immune system. If you experience severe HIV infection, your doctor may suggest antiretroviral therapy (ART). Check below some adverse reactions you may experience:

  • Neutropenia (reduced white blood cell count)
  • Anemia
  • Stomach upset
  • Throwing up
  • Rash
  • Kidney issues

Antiretroviral therapy helps also to prevent a worsening of the infection and from getting CMV. In addition, doctors may recommend induction therapy if you experience retinitis caused by CMV. This procedure involves strong medications intravenously for roughly 2-3 weeks. Thereafter, your doctor may prescribe you some oral medications.

What Are The Possible CMV Complications?

Complications can occur in rare cases. For example:

  • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
  • Myocarditis (heart inflammation)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Mononucleosis

Check below some complications that can occur in people with HIV infection:

  • Brain swelling
  • Skin lesions and rashes
  • Retinitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Certain problems with lungs, colon, mucous membranes, or nerves

In addition, some complications can happen in babies that are born with CMV. Examples include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems
  • Developmental or motor delays
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty learning
  • Cerebral palsy

Is It Possible to Prevent CMV?

There are some measures that can help you to prevent or avoid CMV and other viruses. For example:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water (for 15-20 seconds), especially after touching tissues, dirty diapers, and others.
  • Avoid shared food, drink glasses, and contact with other people’s body fluids (such as tears or saliva)
  • It is recommended to keep countertops, surfaces, and toys clean
  • Have protected sexual intercourse using condoms or dental dams

Frequently Asked Questions

Is CMV a sexually transmitted disease?

While cytomegalovirus can pass from one person to another through sex, it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI). Moreover, it is not the common way how people to get CMV.

Is it possible to cure cytomegalovirus?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to cure CMV but in most people, it does not provoke any health problems.

What are the effects of CMV?

Most babies that are born with cytomegalovirus experience brain, liver, spleen, lung, and growth problems. The most common long-term problem in newborns with CMV is hearing loss. Ask your healthcare professional if you have any questions.

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