Refractory pharyngeal ulceration due to cytomegalovirus in a patient with HIV infection: a case report and literature review

BMC Infect Dis. 2021 Mar 10;21(1):252. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-05943-w.


Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an important pathogen among immunocompromised hosts. Typically, CMV in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection causes diseases of the retina, digestive tract, lungs and liver, but there are few cases of CMV infection of the pharynx and larynx.

Case presentation: A 57-year-old man with HIV infection was admitted because of pharyngeal pain. Before and after admission, pharyngeal biopsies guided by laryngeal endoscopy were performed four times, but pathological examination showed nonspecific inflammation, and the cause of pharyngeal ulceration was unclear. Additionally, the ulceration deteriorated after initiation of retroviral therapy. Laryngomicrosurgery was conducted under general anesthesia to remove tissue, and pathological diagnosis confirmed CMV infection. Pathological features included enlargement of the cytoplasm and nucleus in infected cells, and intranuclear bodies called owl's eye inclusions. Ganciclovir dramatically improved the symptoms and laryngoscopic findings.

Conclusions: This case was diagnosed as pharyngitis and pharyngeal ulceration caused by CMV infection, related to immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome. In previous reports of CMV-induced pharyngeal or laryngeal ulceration in HIV infection, we found six cases similar to our present case. All cases were diagnosed by biopsy. The present case indicates the importance of biopsy for definitive diagnosis. CMV infection should be considered as a differential diagnosis of pharyngeal ulceration in patients with HIV infection.

Keywords: Case report; Cytomegalovirus; Ganciclovir; HIV; Pharyngeal ulceration.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / etiology*
  • Ganciclovir / therapeutic use
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharyngeal Diseases / etiology
  • Pharyngeal Diseases / virology*
  • Ulcer / etiology
  • Ulcer / virology*


  • Ganciclovir