Purpose To update information on cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and to integrate information on its pathogenesis and clinical outcomes. Design Literature review. Methods Selected articles from the medical literature, particularly large epidemiologic studies, including the Johns Hopkins Cytomegalovirus Retinitis Cohort Study, the Longitudinal Study of the Ocular Complications of AIDS, and the Cytomegalovirus Retinitis and Viral Resistance Study, were reviewed. Clinical information is discussed in light of knowledge on CMV, its pathogenesis, and its interactions with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Results Cytomegalovirus uses several mechanisms to evade the immune system and establish latent infection in immunologically normal hosts. With immune deficiency, such as late-stage AIDS, CMV reactivates, is disseminated to the eye, and establishes a productive infection, resulting in retinal necrosis. HIV and CMV potentiate each other: CMV accelerates HIV disease, and CMV retinitis is associated with increased mortality. Randomized clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of treatments for CMV retinitis. Systemically administered treatment for CMV retinitis decreases AIDS mortality. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) effectively suppresses HIV replication, resulting in immune recovery, which, if sufficient, controls retinitis without anti-CMV therapy. Resistant CMV, detected in the blood, correlates with resistant virus in the eye and is associated with worse clinical outcomes, including mortality. Host factors, including host genetics and access to care, play a role in the development of CMV retinitis. Conclusions Clinical outcomes of CMV retinitis in patients with AIDS are dependent on characteristics of the virus and host and on HIV-CMV interactions.
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