Among 181 patients undergoing allogeneic bone marrow transplantation over a five-year period (1978 through 1982), cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection was a frequent and often lethal complication. Recipient pretransplant serology was the most important predictor of posttransplant CMV infection. CMV infection occurred in 26/137 seronegative recipients and in 28/44 seropositive recipients (P < .001). Among patients who developed CMV infection, the time to infection was identical in seronegative and seropositive patients (median, 71 days post transplant). Bone marrow donor CMV serology did not significantly influence CMV infection rate. CMV infection was strongly associated with acute graft-v-host disease (AGVHD), occurring in 34/81 patients with AGVHD and 20/100 without GVHD (P < .001). AGVHD preceded CMV infection by 33.7 days (mean) in patients developing both complications. Patients who developed CMV infections had also received more cellular blood products post transplant. These data suggest that CMV infection may occur through reactivation of latent virus (in seropositive recipients) or through exogenous exposure, possibly through transfused blood products, but the duration of immunoincompetence may be more critical than route of exposure in timing of clinically evident CMV infection. Prophylaxis tailored to the likely infectious source and more effective GVHD prevention both may be critical in preventing CMV infection after bone marrow transplantation.