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HIV, AIDS, and Cytomegalovirus

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Treatment for Cytomegalovirus

For CMV retinitis, you may receive intensive IV treatment for two weeks. This is called induction therapy. You receive the treatment by intravenous infusion, meaning medication is given into a vein. You may need a permanent catheter in your chest for daily treatment. Some patients may be changed to oral therapy

For vision threatening infection, medication is injected directly into the eye. 

After the infection is under control, you receive daily maintenance therapy by pill. Treatment for CMV is used less often than in the past because of the effectiveness of other anti-CMV and anti-HIV medications that prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.

Your doctor may prescribe drugs like these to keep the CMV from replicating:

  • Cytovene (ganciclovir)
  • Foscavir (foscarnet)
  • Vistide (cidofovir)
  • Valcyte (valganciclovir)

These drugs cannot cure the disease. However, they may be used to treat CMV in other parts of your body. They can also slow the progression of the disease.

Possible Side Effects of Cytomegalovirus Drugs

These are possible side effects of ganciclovir:

  • Low white-blood-cell count (called neutropenia) which increases the risk for other infections.
  • Fatigue from low red-blood-cell count (called anemia)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash
  • Lowered levels of the hormone testosterone

Common side effect of foscarnet and cidofovir:

  • Kidney problems

You may require another drug to help with side effects of the CMV drugs. For example, a colony-stimulating factor may help with a low white-blood-cell count. You can also reduce kidney side effects by drinking plenty of water.

Preventing Cytomegalovirus

Before highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) was available, CMV was the most common viral opportunistic infection linked to HIV. But today, taking HIV medication as directed can help to keep your CD4 count up and your immune system strong. HAART can also help prevent retinitis from recurring.

Your doctor may prescribe preventive medication. However, it is less likely than with other opportunistic infections. That's because CMV preventive medication is expensive, sometimes causes severe side effects, and may not work well.

Here are other things you can do to protect yourself from becoming infected with CMV:

  • If you are a daycare worker or are around young children, avoid contact with urine, saliva, or objects that come in contact with them. Young children are more likely than others to carry CMV in their saliva or urine.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water, especially after contact with others' urine or saliva.
  • Use condoms.
  • Talk to your doctor if you expect to receive a blood transfusion.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 17, 2014
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