Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) clinical isolates display genetic polymorphisms in multiple genes. Some authors have suggested that those polymorphisms may be implicated in HCMV-induced immunopathogenesis, as well as in strain-specific behaviours, such as tissue-tropism and ability to establish persistent or latent infections. This review summarises the features of the main clustered HCMV polymorphic open reading frames and also briefly cites other variable loci within the viral genome. The implications of gene polymorphisms are discussed in terms of potentially advantageous higher fitness obtained by the strain, but also taking into account that the published data are often speculative. The last section of this review summarises and critically analyses the main literature reports about the linkage of strain specific genotypes with clinical manifestations of HCMV disease in different patient populations affected by severe cytomegalovirus infections, namely immunocompromised subjects and congenitally infected newborns.
2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.