• Cytomegalovirus infection;
  • liver transplantation;
  • preemptive strategy

In utilizing a preemptive strategy to minimize the occurrence of symptomatic cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection following liver transplant, only patients with proven CMV activity by direct detection are treated. We applied the following preemptive strategy for CMV infection to 49 sequential liver transplant recipients between 1998 and 2001. Patients were monitored for CMV activity using CMV p65 antigen assay for the first 10 months of the study. Thereafter, we changed the detection method to a quantitative PCR for plasma CMV-DNA. All patients were monitored post transplant, weekly for the first 3 months and then monthly. Only patients with detected CMV activity were treated with ganciclovir. Patients were divided into four groups, based on donor (D) and recipient (R) CMV status. In seven out of 49 patients (14.3%) CMV activity was detected: four in group D +/R –, and three in group D –/R –. Five out of these seven patients had asymptomatic CMV infection. Symptomatic CMV infection developed only in two of these seven patients, to give total rate of 4.1% (2/49). All seven patients developed CMV IgG antibody. ‘Transient’ CMV replication detected by PCR in five patients in group D +/R+ was not defined as infection. No patients developed organ-invasive CMV disease. The cost of anti-CMV treatment using the preemptive strategy was $1000/patient/1st year. Using preemptive strategy, early detection of CMV infection was achieved, allowing timely treatment. The use of ganciclovir for CMV infection in only 4.3% of the patients should have a positive impact on minimizing the risk of ganciclovir-resistant virus, and should reduce the cost of CMV prevention strategies.