Diagnosis and Treatment

If you have symptoms of CMV, tests can determine whether you have the disease. Blood tests can indicate special proteins in your blood (antibodies) that are created by your immune system when you have CMV. The virus also can be detected by cultures or by a polymerase chain reaction test from blood, other body fluids or a tissue biopsy.

Screening and testing for your baby

Testing to determine whether you’ve ever been infected can be important if you’re pregnant. Pregnant women with antibodies have a very small chance of a reactivation infecting their unborn child.

When new infection is detected during pregnancy, you may wish to consider amniocentesis, in which your doctor obtains and examines a sample of amniotic fluid to determine whether the fetus has the infection. Occasionally the need for such testing arises when abnormalities that may be caused by CMV or other infectious diseases are seen on ultrasound.

If you or your doctor thinks your baby may have been born with CMV (congenital CMV), it’s important that he or she be tested within the first three weeks of birth. If you wait longer, tests won’t be conclusive for congenital CMV, because it’s possible your baby could have contracted the infection by nursing or by exposure to siblings or others who may be shedding the virus.

Screening and testing if you’re immunocompromised

Testing for CMV can also be important if you have a condition that weakens your immune system. For example, if you have HIV or AIDS, and even if you don’t have an active CMV infection, carrying the CMV virus means you’ll need regular monitoring for complications of CMV, such as vision and hearing problems.

Treatments and drugs

There’s no cure for CMV, and treatment for the virus generally isn’t necessary or recommended for healthy children and adults.

Newborns and people with compromised immune systems, however, need treatment when they’re having symptoms of CMV infection, such as pneumonia. The kind of treatment depends on the symptoms and their severity.

If treatment is needed, it’s most often in the form of antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs slow the virus reproduction, but can’t cure it. Researchers are studying new medications and vaccines to treat and prevent CMV.