Cytomegaly (Inclusion Body Disease)

By | June 10, 2022

Cytomegaly, also known as inclusion body disease, is transmitted by the human cytomegalovirus, also known as HZMV. This virus, belonging to the herpesvirus family, remains in the human body for life following infection.

What is cytomegaly?

An infection with cytomegalovirus usually goes unnoticed by the person affected, since the symptoms of the disease are of a diverse nature and can also be triggered by a wide variety of other diseases. For catatonia definition and meaning, please visit

It is even assumed that 50 to 60 percent of healthy Europeans are carriers of this disease. In developing countries, this number is even higher.

Cytomegalovirus infection is only a problem in people with a weakened immune system or in newborns. The virus can be transmitted from mother to child while still in the womb. Although the majority of infected newborns are born healthy, serious illnesses can also occur.

Due to the high number of unreported cases of cytomegalovirus disease, the exact incubation period is not known. It is estimated to last anywhere from one to three months.


Cytomegaly is caused by the cytomegalovirus and belongs to the herpesviruses. Carriers of the virus can transmit it to a wide variety of animal species and humans. This includes: sexual intercourse, urine, saliva, blood and its components.

Cytomegaly can also be transmitted through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since patients who require a transfusion or transplant are usually seriously ill, infection with cytomegalovirus disease can have serious consequences for them.

It is also possible that an existing infection with cytomegalovirus disease only leads to more noticeable symptoms after an organ transplant. In such cases, the transplanted organ is often rejected.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Cytomegaly is usually asymptomatic. However, about ten percent of all those affected suffer from slightly swollen lymph nodes and fatigue for weeks. However, infection during pregnancy can have serious effects on the fetus. In some cases, birth defects occur in the newborn.

Despite this, most infected babies are born healthy. Severe courses of the disease, which can lead to life-threatening complications, are often observed in people with a severely weakened immune system ( AIDS, cancer, organ transplants). These people often suffer from severe pneumonia, hepatitis or inflammation of the retina of the eyes (retinitis). Fever, muscle pain and blood clotting disorders also occur.

In addition, the number of white blood cells in the blood is reduced. In some cases, a life-threatening inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) develops. Inflammation of the retina (retinitis) spreads to both eyes without treatment. Visual disturbances occur, which manifest themselves as blurred vision and reduced visual acuity. There is no eye pain.

But if retinitis is not treated, there is a risk of total blindness. Examinations often reveal bleeding at the back of the eye. Symptoms can also occur in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition to abdominal pain and diarrhea, heartburn, difficulty swallowing and loss of appetite also occur. Pneumonia caused by cytomegaloviruses manifests itself as a dry cough. At the same time, fluid accumulates in the lung tissue. Pneumonia is often fatal.

Diagnosis & History

The course of a cytomegalovirus infection can be very different. Healthy adults usually have no symptoms. Few get swollen lymph nodes when suffering from cytomegaly. It is also possible for the sufferer to feel exhausted and tired for weeks.

However, in people who are immunocompromised, such as those from an organ transplant or AIDS, cytomegaly can cause severe symptoms and discomfort. This can be hepatitis, fever, blood clotting disorders, pneumonia or some types of eye inflammation.

Furthermore, the affected person has significantly fewer leukocytes (white blood cells) in the blood. In particularly severe cases, cytomegaly can also spread to the brain in such people, causing an inflammation of the brain, also known as encephalitis.

The eye inflammation caused by cytomegaly often results in decreased visual acuity and blurred vision caused by inflammation of the retina.

It is also possible for cytomegaly to cause inflammation of the lining of the stomach or esophagus. In such a case, the cytomegalovirus infection manifests itself as abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, or a burning sensation behind the breastbone.

In newborns, cytomegaly can result in birth defects, anemia, vision problems, disabilities, deafness [ or pneumonia. Cytomegaly can also trigger premature birth.

The diagnosis of cytomegaly is not easy due to the variety of symptoms, because many other viral or bacterial diseases can cause similar symptoms.

A possible type of diagnosis for a cytomegalovirus infection is the exclusion diagnosis, which excludes all other diseases. However, blood or tissue tests can help to confirm the suspicion of a cytomegalovirus infection. In some cases, it is even possible to detect the cytomegalovirus in urine, tissue or blood.


Inclusion body disease can lead to a number of different symptoms and complications. Those affected feel very tired and worn out with this disease and therefore no longer actively participate in everyday life. The lymph nodes are also usually swollen and those affected suffer from fever or various types of inflammation.

It can also lead to inflammation in the lungs or in the eye. Reduced visual acuity can also occur as a result of inclusion body disease and have a very negative effect on everyday life and the quality of life of those affected. Without treatment, most patients also suffer from inflammation of the gastric mucosa and thus severe abdominal pain.

The disease can also lead to swallowing problems and thus difficulties in taking food and liquids. In the worst case, the disease can lead to severe disabilities or deafness. The child can also die as a result of being born prematurely.

Inclusion body disease is usually treated without complications with the help of medication. Most complaints are limited by this. If the disease is detected early, the course of the disease will be positive in most cases.

When should you go to the doctor?

A diffuse feeling of illness or an impairment of general well-being should always be checked by a doctor if the symptoms continue to increase over a longer period of time. The risk group includes in particular people with a weakened immune system, with previous illnesses or pregnant women. Therefore, these people in particular should seek the cooperation of a doctor if a general feeling of illness or an inner weakness appears. There is a need for action if you are tired, have swollen lymph nodes or have changed the appearance of your skin. Medical examinations should be initiated if swallowing difficulties, loss of appetite, diarrhea or abdominal pain occur. This is the only way to clarify the cause and make a diagnosis.

If you have a fever, irregular heartbeat, muscle pain or flu-like symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If there is a sudden deterioration in health due to an existing illness, the changes must be discussed with the doctor treating you as soon as possible. Inflammations or limitations in general functional activity must also be examined and treated by a doctor immediately. Without medical care, irreversible damage can occur. To prevent complications, it is therefore advisable to seek the support of a doctor as soon as the first health problems appear. In addition, pregnant women should always take part in all check-ups that are offered.

Treatment & Therapy

In people with an intact immune system who suffer from cytomegalovirus disease, no special therapy is usually possible. The disease heals on its own, but the virus remains in the body. The cytomegalovirus infection can therefore break out again at any time as soon as the immune system is weakened again.

However, special therapy is required for patients who have an immune deficiency. Antivirals such as foscarnet, valganciclovir or ganciclovir are used for this therapy.

When cytomegaly is diagnosed in pregnant women, they are given antibodies to the cytomegalovirus.

In the case of milder courses, treatment of the symptoms that occur can be sufficient in the case of cytomegalovirus disease. However, an additional bacterial infection should be treated immediately with antibiotics so that the cytomegalovirus disease does not worsen.


A preventive vaccination against cytomegaloviruses does not yet exist, but is currently being developed. In the case of organ transplants, the administration of certain antivirals can prevent an infection with cytomegalovirus disease.

Pregnant women can try to take special precautions to prevent cytomegalovirus infection. This can include hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing as well as avoiding contagious situations or groups of people. Pregnant educators should refrain from changing diapers for other children during pregnancy.

You can do that yourself

In order to protect yourself from infection with the cytomegalovirus in everyday life, it makes sense to comply with the normal hygiene guidelines. Thorough hand washing with soap and warm water is important and effective as cytomegalovirus can be inactivated by detergents and soap.

If the immune system is weakened, there is an increased risk of CMV. It is recommended to strengthen your immune system through a healthy lifestyle by paying attention to a healthy diet, an adequate intake of vitamins and enough exercise in everyday life. There is currently no vaccine against the virus, so vaccination prophylaxis is not possible.

If a cytomegalovirus disease is present, it can be treated with antivirals in some cases. These drugs prevent the virus from multiplying. Most of the time, treatment is not necessary in healthy people, and treatment of symptoms is sufficient. Antivirals and other special medications are used in particular in people with a weakened immune system or during pregnancy.

Much more important, however, is the prevention of these risk groups and prophylaxis in women who wish to have children who have not yet had contact with the cytomegalovirus. If possible, close contact with small children should be avoided in everyday life, as well as the sharing of objects such as crockery, cutlery, towels or bed linen. Careful hand hygiene and hygiene in general must also be observed here.

Cytomegaly (Inclusion Body Disease)