Background: Optimal prophylaxis against cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease for organ transplant patients at risk for primary infection (donor seropositive, recipient seronegative, D+R−) remains to be determined. We hypothesized that prolonged oral ganciclovir therapy following intravenous therapy would provide increased protection.
Methods: A total of 155 evaluable D+R− organ transplant recipients from 13 transplant centers were entered into the study: all received intravenous ganciclovir (5 mg/kg/day) for 5–10 days and then either oral acyclovir (400 mg tid) or oral ganciclovir (1 g tid) for an additional 12 weeks. Patients were assigned to their treatment groups at a central randomization site, with a separate randomization scheme for each of the organs transplanted (kidney, heart, or liver). In the case of kidney transplants, the patients were stratified according to source of the kidney (living related vs. cadaveric donor). The primary endpoint was the incidence of CMV disease in the first six months post-transplant.
Results: Treatment with oral ganciclovir was associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of symptomatic disease or viremia when compared with the oral acyclovir group (32% vs. 50%, P<0.05). This difference was most marked in terms of tissue invasive disease: only 3 of 15 symptomatic patients in the ganciclovir group vs. 10 of 21 in the acyclovir group developed tissue-invasive infection (P<0.05). There was a significant difference in the time to CMV disease or viremia in the two groups: mean time 212±17 days post-transplant for the acyclovir group vs. 291±13 days for the ganciclovir group (P<0.001). The incidence of allograft rejection was 34% in the ganciclovir group and 46% in the acyclovir group (P=NS). Leukopenia was more common in the ganciclovir group (P<0.05), but in no case did it require drug discontinuation. Ganciclovir resistance did not develop in this study.
Conclusion: Prophylaxis with oral ganciclovir following a brief course of intravenous ganciclovir provides useful protection against primary CMV disease.