Objective: It has been suggested that, in inflammatory bowel disease, cytomegalovirus behaves in the intestine as a nonpathogenic bystander, and even its finding in intestinal mucosa has unclear clinical relevance. We report our experience with a small series of patients with refractory inflammatory bowel disease and cytomegalovirus infection and their clinical outcome.
Methods and results: Nine patients with moderate-severe attacks of inflammatory bowel disease did not respond to i.v. prednisone (1 mg/kg/day) for a mean of 24 days. Four of these patients were further treated with i.v. cyclosporine A (4 mg/kg/day). Cytomegalovirus infection was diagnosed in two patients after resection for treatment failure. In the remaining patients, cytomegalovirus infection was diagnosed in endoscopic mucosal biopsies and i.v. ganciclovir was then administered at a dose of 10 mg/kg/day for 2-3 wk. Five of these patients went into clinical remission, allowing corticosteroid and cyclosporine A discontinuation. Follow-up biopsies were performed and in all cases cytomegalovirus could not be detected in the colonic tissue. Two patients needed to be treated with intravenous cyclosporine A after antiviral therapy because of persistence of clinical symptoms despite the elimination of cytomegalovirus infection.
Conclusions: Cytomegalovirus infection may play a role in the natural history of refractory inflammatory bowel disease and in some of its complications. The clearance of cytomegalovirus in colonic mucosa may lead some of these patients to remission.