Cytomegalovirus DNA concentration in plasma predicts development of cytomegalovirus disease in kidney transplant recipients



The clinical significance of cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA detection in post-kidney transplantation infection surveillance was examined by comparing the performance of three assays for detection of CMV in blood: the test for CMV-pp65-antigen in leukocytes, which is routinely employed in our laboratory, the quantitative plasma CMV-DNA-polymerase chain reaction (PCR; Cobas Amplicor CMV Monitor test®) and the qualitative plasma CMV-DNA-PCR (Amplicor CMV test®). Thirteen kidney transplant recipients were monitored with serial samples taken over a period of 3 months following transplantation. The quantitative CMV-PCR was the test with highest sensitivity, 95.9%, vs. 88.9% and 76.9% for the CMV-pp65 antigen assay and qualitative CMV-PCR, respectively. The virus load in the first positive specimens, assessed as DNA-copies/mL, was significantly associated with CMV disease because five of the six patients who developed disease, but only one of the seven who did not develop disease, had more than 3000 CMV-DNA-copies/mL. The number of CMV-pp65 antigen-positive cells in the first positive specimens did not have predictive value for development of CMV disease. Assessment of CMV in plasma by the quantitative CMV-PCR is especially useful since it has a high sensitivity and the amount of CMV DNA in plasma is a good predictor of CMV disease.