Postgrad Med J 80:233-235 doi:10.1136/pgmj.2003.007385
  • Case report

Systemic cytomegalovirus infection complicating ulcerative colitis: a case report and review of the literature

  1. P J Hamlin1,
  2. M N Shah1,
  3. N Scott2,
  4. J I Wyatt2,
  5. P D Howdle1
  1. 1Department of Medicine, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK
  2. 2Department of Pathology, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P J Hamlin
 Department of Medicine, St James’s University Hospital, Beckett Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS9 7TF, UK;
  • Received 10 April 2003
  • Accepted 17 May 2003


Cytomegalovirus is a common infection worldwide and in the immunocompromised individual it can be a major cause of morbidity and mortality. In patients with inflammatory bowel disease cytomegalovirus infection has been described in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised individuals. A 34 year old man with an exacerbation of his colitis was diagnosed as having both cytomegalovirus colitis and hepatitis. The diagnosis was made on the classical appearance of “owl’s eye” inclusion bodies on colonic and hepatic biopsies and, in addition, viral serology and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of the cytomegalovirus DNA copy number. Fourteen days of treatment with ganciclovir led to a prompt improvement in the symptoms of colitis, resolution of the pyrexia, normalisation of the liver function tests, and clearance of the virus, as measured by a negative cytomegalovirus DNA PCR.

Cytomegalovirus infection is a potentially fatal complication of treatment induced immunosuppression in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. As in this case, infection may be systemic and not confined to the intestine. Prompt diagnosis using histology, serology, and PCR analysis allows prompt introduction of therapy and an improved prognosis.