Cytomegalovirus in inflammatory bowel disease: pathogen or innocent bystander?

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 Sep;16(9):1620-7. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21275.


The role of cytomegalovirus (CMV) in exacerbations of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remains a topic of ongoing debate. Current data are conflicting as to whether CMV worsens inflammation in those with severe colitis, or is merely a surrogate marker for severe disease. The interpretation of existing results is limited by mostly small, retrospective studies, with varying definitions of disease severity and CMV disease. CMV colitis is rare in patients with Crohn's disease or mild-moderate ulcerative colitis. In patients with severe and/or steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis, local reactivation of CMV can be detected in actively inflamed colonic tissue in about 30% of cases. Where comparisons between CMV+ and CMV- steroid-refractory patients can be made, most, but not all, studies show no difference in outcomes according to CMV status. Treatment with antiviral therapy has allowed some patients with severe colitis to avoid colectomy despite poor response to conventional IBD therapies. This article reviews the immunobiology of CMV disease, the evidence for CMV's role in disease severity, and discusses the outcomes with antiviral therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytomegalovirus / pathogenicity*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / therapy
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / virology*