Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) severity is positively correlated with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. This may reflect CMV triggering and/or exacerbating flares of IBD and/or IBD or immunosuppressive drugs administered to patients with IBD increasing susceptibility to CMV infection. Herein, we performed studies in mice to investigate these possibilities. Mice administered murine CMV (MCMV) developed signs of acute viral infection (malaise and weight loss) and had MCMV loads that were readily detected in numerous organs including the intestine. By 4 weeks, these mice manifested a "latent" infection in which MCMV levels were low but detectable by PCR. Such MCMV infection did not induce acute colitis in either wild-type mice or IL-10(-/-) mice, which are highly prone to developing colitis. However, underlying MCMV infection in an acute or latent state exacerbated the severity of colitis induced by dextran sodium sulfate (DSS). Such potentiation of DSS colitis by latent MCMV infection seemed to occur without viral reactivation. Whereas initial MCMV infection induced acute alterations in serum and intestinal cytokines, such cytokine levels returned to baseline before administration of DSS. However, the initial infection resulted in lasting elevation of antibodies to commensal bacterial antigens, suggesting that MCMV infection may have potentiated colitis via priming of the intestinal immune response to gut microbiota. Thus, underlying CMV infection can alter mucosal immunity, potentially increasing the tendency of CMV-infected hosts to develop colitis.