Background: Cytomegalovirus infection and disease is associated with poor prognosis and steroid refractoriness in inflammatory bowel disease patients. The unfavourable effect of steroids and immunosuppressive therapy on CMV infection is well known but few data are available concerning anti-TNFalpha therapy (Infliximab). Aim of the study was to evaluate the presence and severity of CMV infection and disease in Infliximab-treated IBD patients.
Patients and methods: The severity of active CMV infection and disease was assessed in 11 consecutive patients with ileocolonic/colonic disease and 4 patients with ulcerative colitis before and after a standard 3-infusion course of Infliximab. Active CMV infection was evaluated by serology and diagnosed by means of pp65-antigenemia (pp65 AG), and quantification of CMV DNA isolated from biopsy specimens of colonic tissue. CMV disease was assessed on haematoxylin/eosin-stained colonic biopsies and immunohistochemical stains.
Results: Of the 11 patients, nine were CMV seropositive. As far as concerns CMV infection, only one patient had positive pp65 AG, before and after Infliximab. CMV DNA was detected in the colonic biopsies of three patients. In 2, CMV DNA persisted also after therapy with 410 and 1300 copies/microg of DNA, respectively, albeit with no evidence of worsening of the colonic disease. In the remaining patient, CMV DNA load became undetectable. Conventional histology and immunohistochemical stains were negative for CMV in all the patients, without evidence of CMV disease.
Conclusions: Active CMV infection did not progress to disease following Infliximab therapy. Although these preliminary observations require confirmation, the response to Infliximab therapy does not appear to be influenced by, or influence the course of, CMV infection/disease.