Polymerase chain reaction for detection of mucosal cytomegalovirus infection in patients with acute ulcerative colitis

Authors Gloria S. Z. Tun, Mohammad Raza, Melissa F. Hale, Alan J. Lobo.


Background Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is associated with acute exacerbations of ulcerative colitis (UC) but its clinical relevance remains uncertain. The primary aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of CMV infection in UC patients using viral polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of mucosal biopsy samples. Secondary aims were to establish whether the disease was due to a primary infection or reactivation and to note associated risk factors and clinical outcomes.

Methods Since 2011, a policy of biopsy for CMV infection was adopted for severe UC patients in a large tertiary center. A retrospective review was undertaken to identify patients with mucosal biopsies for exacerbations of UC from October 2011 through January 2014.

Results Sixty biopsies for CMV PCR were obtained from 52 patients, 15 of whom were positive. In these patients, 9/9 tested were seropositive for anti-CMV IgG, while none were seropositive for anti-CMV IgM. Steroid refractory disease was a significant predictor of CMV positivity; however, there was no difference between the CMV-positive and -negative groups in rates of immunosuppression, or clinical and endoscopic severity. Six patients in the CMVpositive group received infliximab; all received concurrent antiviral therapy and did not
require surgery.

Conclusions PCR of mucosal biopsies detected CMV infection due to viral reactivation in almost a third of patients with deteriorating or acute severe UC. Steroid refractory disease was significantly associated with CMV positivity, but no significant relationship was  demonstrated with either disease severity or immunosuppression in our cohort. Treatment with anti-tumor necrosis factor agents was administered safely in combination with antiviral drugs.

Keywords Ulcerative colitis, cytomegalovirus, endoscopy, microbiology, pathology

Ann Gastroenterol 2019; 32 (1): 81-87

Original Articles