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BMC Infect Dis. 2005 Dec 1;5:108.

High frequency of human cytomegalovirus DNA in the liver of infants with extrahepatic neonatal cholestasis.

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Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medical Sciences, State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas-SP, Brazil.



Biliary atresia (BA) is the most severe hepatic disorder in newborns and its etiopathogenesis remains unknown. Viral involvement has been proposed, including the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). The aims of the study were to use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to screen the liver tissue of infants with extrahepatic cholestasis for HCMV and to correlate the results with serological antibodies against HCMV and histological findings.


A retrospective study in a tertiary care setting included 35 patients (31 BA, 1 BA associated with a choledochal cyst, 2 congenital stenosis of the distal common bile duct and 1 hepatic cyst). HCMV serology was determined by ELISA. Liver and porta hepatis were examined histologically. Liver samples from infants and a control group were screened for HCMV DNA.


Twelve patients had HCMV negative serology, 9 were positive for IgG antibodies and 14 were positive for IgG and IgM. Nine liver and seven porta hepatis samples were positive for HCMV DNA but none of the control group were positive (general frequency of positivity was 34.3%-12/35). There was no correlation between HCMV positivity by PCR and the histological findings. The accuracy of serology for detecting HCMV antibodies was low.


These results indicate an elevated frequency of HCMV in pediatric patients with extrahepatic neonatal cholestasis. They also show the low accuracy of serological tests for detecting active HCMV infection and the lack of correlation between HCMV positivity by PCR and the histopathological changes.

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