Hepatic involvement in congenital cytomegalovirus infection - infrequent yet significant

E. Bilavsky, M. Schwarz, Z. Bar-Sever, J. Pardo, J. Amir

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Summary Congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) infection can reside in many organ systems; however, the virus has a particular predilection towards inhabiting the reticuloendothelial system, especially the liver. Specific studies focusing only on hepatic involvement in infants with cCMV are lacking. We report our experience with a large cohort of infants treated in our hospital clinic due to cCMV and hepatic involvement. Hepatic involvement was defined either as hepatitis (elevated alanine transaminases (ALT) >80 units/L without cholestatic disease) or cholestatic disease (elevated ALT >80 units/L combined with direct bilirubin >2 mg/dL). During the study period, 198 infants were diagnosed with symptomatic cCMV in our clinic. Hepatic involvement was observed in 13 infants (6.6%); 7 (3.5%) with hepatitis and 6 (3%) with cholestatic disease. Maternal primary infection with cytomegalovirus during pregnancy was diagnosed in 7 (53.8%) of the 13 infants, nonprimary in 3 (23.1%) and unknown in 3 (23.1%). Among these 13 infants, central nervous system (CNS) involvement was observed in 11 (84.6%) and hearing impairment in 7 (53.8%). Treatment with an antiviral agent was initiated in all cases. Gradual improvement of hepatic enzymes and cholestasis was observed over a prolonged period. We found that the incidence of hepatic involvement in infants with cCMV is much less frequent than previously reported. The hepatic involvement in these infants may manifest in two different ways, and thus, a high index of suspicion and a stepwise approach will help in correctly diagnosing these infants. Antiviral treatment due to CNS involvement is warranted and prognosis is excellent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-768
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Viral Hepatitis
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015


  • biliary atresia
  • cholestatic hepatitis
  • congenital cytomegalovirus
  • hepatitis
  • hepatomegaly
  • idiopathic neonatal hepatitis


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