Clinical utility of cytomegalovirus antigenemia assay and blood cytomegalovirus DNA PCR for cytomegaloviral colitis patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis

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Background and aims

Clinical usefulness of cytomegalovirus (CMV) antigenemia assay and blood CMV polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) needs to be evaluated.


Medical records of moderate to severe UC patients between January 2001 and December 2012 were reviewed retrospectively. Diagnostic performances of CMV antigenemia assay and blood PCR to predict CMV colitis, and clinical outcome according to the results were analyzed. CMV colitis was diagnosed by H&E staining and/or CMV immunohistochemistry.


Of the 229 study subjects, 83 patients (36.2%) had CMV colitis. The sensitivity and specificity of CMV antigenemia assay were 47.0% and 81.7%, and those of blood CMV DNA PCR were 44.3% and 87.9%, respectively. If either CMV antigenemia or PCR was positive in the presence of significant ulcers, the sensitivity and specificity of having CMV colitis were 67.3% and 75.7%, respectively, with the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve value of 0.717. Among patients with significant ulcers, positive CMV antigenemia (33/50 [66.0%] vs. 31/102 [30.4%]; p < 0.001) and positive blood CMV PCR (25/37 [67.6%] vs. 24/86 [27.9%]; p < 0.001) showed significantly higher probability of CMV colitis than blood test-negative patients. UC-CMV colitis patients with positive CMV antigenemia showed significantly higher rate of colectomy than those with negative antigenemia (13/39 [33.3%] vs. 5/44 [11.4%]; p = 0.015).


Although CMV antigenemia and blood CMV PCR showed low sensitivity for diagnosing CMV colitis, the specificity values were high. Among UC-CMV colitis patients, CMV antigenemia showed significant association with subsequent colectomy.

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