What is the role of cytologic evaluation in the evaluation of viral pneumonia?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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Respiratory secretions, bronchoalveolar lavage samples, and tissue specimens can be examined using cytologic and histologic techniques. Intranuclear inclusions often exist in cells infected with DNA viruses. Cytoplasmic inclusions usually are present in cells infected with RNA viruses.

CMV infection characteristically is associated with "owl's-eye" cells, which are large cells with basophilic intranuclear inclusions and a surrounding clear zone.

The presence of viral inclusions is diagnostic, although this method has low sensitivity. Therefore, absence of inclusions does not always exclude infection or active disease.

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