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Immunostaining Detection of Cytomegalovirus in Gastrointestinal Biopsies: Clinicopathological Correlation at a Large Academic Health System

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Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection can be asymptomatic in healthy individuals but may cause serious complications in immunocompromised patients. We investigated the clinicopathological correlation of CMV in gastrointestinal (GI) biopsies at our institute between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015.


A total of 105 non-neoplastic GI biopsies tested positive for CMV by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The IHC results were stratified as "true positive" if > 2 cells stained, or "rare positive" if only 1 - 2 cells stained. Clinical information including comorbidities, serum CMV viral loads, and treatment was reviewed and correlated.


Overall 1% of all GI biopsies were positive for CMV by immunostaining. The most frequently involved organ was colon, followed by esophagus, stomach, ileum and duodenum. When > 2 cells were stained positive, serum CMV viral loads were positive in 52.2%, negative in 17.2%, and not tested in 27.6% of cases. When only 1 - 2 cells stained positive, CMV viral loads were positive in 23.4%, negative in 25.5%, and not tested in 51.1% of cases. We further showed that clinical management of CMV differs based on both pathological findings and underlying diseases.


The role of CMV in GI biopsies remains controversial. We propose an algorithm of performing CMV immunostaining based on clinicopathological correlation.

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