Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is reported to be a cause of steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis (UC), but the strength of this association has not been tested in a case control study. Controlled studies have also not been performed to determine the sensitivity of available immunohistochemical techniques to detect CMV in this setting. The pathology database at Stanford Hospital was searched for UC patients with a diagnosis of "severe colitis" between the years 1992 and 2002 and medical records were reviewed. Forty patients were identified with refractory UC, defined as poor response to highdose systemic steroids for >2 weeks. Another group of 40 patients with severe, but nonrefractory, UC was case-matched for age and year of biopsy. A series of 40 patients who underwent colectomy for reasons other than inflammatory bowel disease with representative sections of "normal" colon were selected as noncolitis controls. CMV inclusions were detected on hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) in 2 of 40 patients with refractory UC, but not in other patients. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) detected CMV in 10 of 40 (25%) patients with refractory UC and 1 of 40 (2.5%) patients with nonrefractory UC (P = 0.007). The CMV-positive cases initially identified on IHC but not on H&E were re-reviewed for viral inclusions on H&E: 3 had rare, but typical, inclusions; 3 had atypical inclusions; and 3 had no inclusions. CMV was not detected by H&E or IHC in 40 noncolitis controls. Of 10 steroid-refractory UC patients with CMV detected, 7 were refractory to cyclosporin or 6-mercaptopurine/azathioprine (70%) and 6 had undergone proctocolectomy (60%) prior to detection of the CMV. Two patients with recognized CMV infection were treated with gancyclovir, improved, and were able to taper off steroids and avoid proctocolectomy. This study provides evidence that unrecognized and therefore untreated CMV infection is significantly associated with steroid-refractory UC. Moreover, IHC is more sensitive than H&E for detection of CMV and should be considered as part of the routine evaluation of steroid-refractory UC patients, before proceeding with other medical or surgical therapy that may be unnecessary once the CMV is treated.
View details for Web of Science ID 000189316500009
View details for PubMedID 15104299