OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine the outcome of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections complicating the course of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). METHODS: The records and clinical courses were reviewed for all IBD patients who were evaluated at the IBD Center of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and who developed CMV infection. RESULTS: Ten patients with severe, medically refractory IBD (five ulcerative colitis, three Crohn's colitis, and two indeterminate colitis) developed CMV infection. All but two were hospitalized with exacerbation of their underlying disease and were receiving immunosuppressive treatment with steroids, thiopurines, and/or cyclosporine at the time CMV infection was recognized. Eight patients had documented colonic CMV (one had concurrent upper GI tract involvement), one developed interstitial CMV and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and one developed primary CMV mononucleosis. Prompt treatment with ganciclovir and withdrawal of immunosuppressive treatment resulted in gradual improvement and induction of remission of the underlying IBD in five patients. The patient with concomitant CMV and P. carinii pneumonitis died. In two patients, treatment with ganciclovir did not alter the clinical course of their IBD, and one of them underwent colectomy. In one patient CMV was found on the resected colonic specimen. One patient with primary CMV infection responded also to ganciclovir treatment. CONCLUSIONS: CMV infection may aggravate the course of seemingly refractory IBD in patients who either fail to respond or experience worsening of symptoms despite immunosuppressive therapy. Expedient evaluation, prompt treatment intervention with ganciclovir, and withdrawal of immunosuppressive treatment may avoid complications and mortality. This regimen leads to improvement of the underlying IBD in most patients.
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