For the first time, India has reported five cases of Cytomegalovirus (CVM) related rectal bleeding in COVID immunocompetent patients, said a report by Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, on Tuesday.
According to Prof. Anil Arora, Chairman, Institute of Liver Gastroenterology and Pancreaticobiliary Sciences, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, during the second wave of the COVID-19, in April-May 2021, the hospital has seen five cases of CMV infection in otherwise immunocompetent patients with COVID-19.
"These patients presented with pain abdomen and bleeding in stools. These patients presented with a mean of 20 to 30 days after the diagnosis of COVID-19. None of them had other predisposing immunosuppressed states accounting for this viral infection", said Dr Arora.
He said that COVID infection itself and the medicines used for its treatment (steroids) do suppress the immunity of patients and make them susceptible to uncommon infections with varied presentations, and one such opportunistic infection is (CMV) virus.
"Cytomegalovirus exists in 80 to 90 per cent of the Indian population in asymptomatic form as our immunity is strong enough to make it clinically asymptomatic. Clinical presentation with symptoms secondary to CMV is usually seen in patients whose immunity is compromised," he informed.
"But in our series all patients presented with low lymphocyte count (6-10 per cent as agaInst a normal Of 20 to 40 per cent) indicating card induced suppression of immunity predisposing them to symptomatic reactivation of CMV infection," he added.
He noted that out of five cases with an age group of 30-70 years were from Delhi NCR, four had presented with a lower gastrointestinal bleed that is bleeding in stools and one patient presented with intestinal obstruction.
"Two of them had a massive bleed, one requiring emergency lifesaving surgery in the form of removal of the right side of the colon and one of them has succumbed due to massive bleeding and severe COVID chest disease. The other three patients were successfully treated with antiviral therapy with ganciclovir", added Dr Arora.
Dr Sunda Jain, Senior Consultant Pathologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital informed, "Cytomegalovinurs colitis was confirmed by PCR testing for CMV virernia and tissue biopsy from the large intestine which showed intranuclear inclusion bodies, which was further confirmed to be due to CMV infection by the specific immunohistochemistry stains." "In such cases, a high index of suspicion and timely intervention in the form of an early diagnosis and effective antiviral therapy can save many precious lives," Dr Praveen Sharma, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterology Department, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital added