Members of the herpesvirus family, cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and herpes simplex virus (HSV), have been recognized as causal agents of chorioretinal inflammatory diseases. We investigated the use of the polymerase chain reaction for the detection of CMV, HSV, and EBV genomes in aqueous, subretinal fluid, and vitreous specimens in patients with clinically diagnosed CMV retinitis. Cytomegalovirus but not HSV or EBV genomic sequences were detected in all of these clinical specimens. We also investigated 18 normal aqueous and eight normal vitreous specimens obtained from patients undergoing cataract or vitrectomy surgery. Cytomegalovirus, HSV, and EBV DNA were not detected in any of the normal aqueous specimens. There was one weakly positive CMV normal vitreous, but none was HSV or EBV positive by the polymerase chain reaction. These results indicate that the polymerase chain reaction may be useful as a rapid and sensitive diagnostic technique to aid in the confirmation of clinical observations.