Pathologic Features of Cytomegalovirus Retinopathy after Treatment with the Antiviral Agent Ganciclovir

Jay S. Pepose, Cheryl Newman, Michael C. Bach, Thomas C. Quinn, Richard F. Ambinder, Gary N. Holland, Peter S. Hodstrom, Henry M. Frey, Robert Y. Foos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Ganciclovir is a new antiviral compound (also called BW B759U, DHPG, BIOLF-62, and 2'NDG) that has been used for the treatment of cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinopathy in immunocompromised patients (bone marrow recipients or acquired immune deficiency syndrome [AIDS] victims). The authors studied the eyes of three AIDS patients with CMV retinopathy who died while receiving ganciclovir chemotherapy. Gross, microscopic, and ultrastructural studies of these cases showed varying degrees of retinal scarring and active CMV lesions at the margins of the scars. CMV antigens were localized in cells at all layers of retina at the border of the lesions and in isolated cells in a perivascular location within histologically normal appearing retina. These areas probably represent sites of recrudescence when the drug is discontinued. In situ hybridization using a cloned complementary DNA (cDNA) probe of human CMV corroborated the immunocytologic localization of the virus. Ultrastructural studies showed megalic syncytial cells containing mostly capsids exclusively in the cell nucleus. The cytoplasmic electron-dense membrane-bound bodies that have characterized untreated cases of CMV retinopathy were absent in the treated cases. An attempt to isolate CMV in tissue culture from the vitreous and retina of one of the cases yielded a negative result. Our results indicate that ganciclovir does not effectively eliminate CMV from the retina nor does it suppress expression of all viral genes. Ganciclovir appears to function by limiting viral DNA synthesis and subsequent packaging of viral DNA into infectious units, thereby acting as a virostatic chemotherapeutic agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-424
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • AIDS
  • BW B759U
  • DHPG
  • antivirals
  • cytomegalovirus
  • ganciclovir
  • herpesviruses
  • retinitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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