Five bone marrow transplant recipients who died of respiratory failure were retrospectively analyzed with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for pulmonary cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Two patients had CMV interstitial pneumonitis according to the virus isolation and the histologic and immunofluorescent examinations of the lungs, while the other three patients had non-CMV diseases (ie, idiopathic interstitial pneumonitis, pulmonary aspergillosis, or Streptococcus mitis septicemia). Cytomegalovirus DNA was amplified from the postmortem lung tissue with PCR. The PCR assay showed apparent PCR signals specific to CMV DNA in the two patients with CMV pneumonitis. In contrast, CMV DNA was hardly detectable or undetectable in the three patients without CMV disease. With quantitative PCR assay the initial CMV copy number in the lung tissue of the two patients with CMV pneumonitis was more than 10(4) copies/micrograms DNA and was over 1,000-fold more than that of the three patients without CMV pneumonitis. These results show that quantitative PCR assay could be useful as a diagnostic measure for pulmonary CMV infection.