Cytomegalovirus: Prophylaxis, preemption, or “Wait and Watch”


  • Shmuel Shoham M.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Transplant and Oncology Infectious Diseases Program, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
    • Transplant and Oncology Infectious Diseases Program, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1830 East Monument Street, Room 450-D, Baltimore, MD 21205
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    • Telephone: 410-614-6431; FAX: 410-614-8518

  • This project was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases through grant K24 AI085118.

  • Potential conflicts of interest: Dr. Shoham advises and received grant from Merck. He also received grants from Pfizer, Astellas, Viropharma, and Optimer.

Cytomegalovirus: Prophylaxis, Preemption, or “Wait and Watch”


Wadhawan et al.1 advocate a wait-and-watch strategy for the management of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections in liver transplant recipients. Before the proposed strategy can be widely accepted as a new standard for CMV-seropositive recipients, its efficacy with respect to more established prevention strategies needs to be proven. Their data indicate that CMV disease developed in the majority of their patients (6/10) who had asymptomatic CMV viremia with >500 copies/mL. It is likely that the CMV disease in these patients would have been prevented with a prophylaxis or preemptive strategy. Given the substantial morbidities, including prolonged hospitalization and even irreversible organ damage, that can occur with symptomatic CMV disease, we have an obligation to do our utmost to prevent this from happening. Neither prophylaxis nor preemptive therapies for CMV are completely satisfactory, but both strategies are clearly advantageous in comparison with doing nothing.2 More insidious are the indirect effects induced by CMV, which include allograft injury, vascular thrombosis, accelerated hepatitis C virus infection, opportunistic infections, and Epstein-Barr virus–associated posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder.3, 4 Unfortunately, adequate data regarding rates of such nonlethal complications are not reported in this article.

Until it is proven otherwise, the standard for CMV disease prevention in seropositive recipients should continue to be either prophylaxis or preemptive therapy rather than a wait-and-watch strategy. This may be especially true for patients with CMV viremia that exceeds 500 copies/mL.

Shmuel Shoham M.D.*, * Transplant and Oncology Infectious Diseases Program Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, MD.