Objective: To identify the predictors of acquiring cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease, and to describe natural history, therapeutic management and autopsy findings in affected patients.
Design: Observational study of a consecutive cohort of AIDS patient diagnosed and followed in the same institution.
Methods: All of the patients with CMV were included. Statistical analyses were performed to establish the risk of acquiring the disease at or after AIDS presentation, survival, and the occurrence and time of relapses in relation to maintenance therapy. The presence of CMV infection at autopsy was also investigated.
Results: CMV disease was diagnosed in 304 (24.8%) out of 1,227 patients, its incidence increasing according to the year of AIDS diagnosis. Women, homosexual men, patients given zidovudine and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) prophylaxis before AIDS, and severely immunodepressed patients were at higher risk for the disease. CMV disease was an independent factor of worse survival (hazard ratio, 1.7 versus PCP; 95% confidence intervals, 1.28-2.13). Patients untreated during the acute phase had a 4.3 higher risk of dying than those treated. Relapses occurred less frequently and later in patients given continuous maintenance treatment (23 out of 113; 17 months) than in untreated patients (13 out of 16; 3 months) or those given discontinuous therapy (22 out of 40; 7 months), whereas survival was independent from treatment. CMV infection was found in 97 out of 134 patients at autopsy, but was unassociated with relapse.
Conclusions: CMV is a severe disease whose frequency is higher in severely immunodepressed patients. Continuous treatment leads to a lower relapse rate even if it does not change survival or eradicate the infection.