Background and Objectives As cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA is frequently detectable in the plasma of recently infected sero-positive blood donors, information concerning primary CMV infection is important for the identification of possibly infectious donors.
Materials and Methods Monitoring of 17 982 donors for CMV antibodies and DNA in plasma identified 14 subjects with ongoing primary CMV infection. Thirteen donors were interrogated for possible sources of infection and CMV-related symptoms, and monitored for CMV antigens, CMV DNA in plasma, leucocytes and urine, course of IgG and IgM antibodies as well as markers of systemic infection and parameters of organ function.
Results CMV antigens and DNA were detectable in peripheral blood for up to 54 and 269 days respectively. Clearance of CMV DNA from blood correlated with clearance of IgM antibodies, development of IgG antibodies against the membrane glycoprotein gB and development of high avidity IgG antibodies. Eighty-five percent of subjects with primary CMV infection, but even 69% of matched controls reported possibly CMV-related symptoms. Sixty-two and 23%, respectively, had contact with possible sources of infection. One donor developed a febrile illness accompanied by increased levels of CMV DNA in peripheral blood 2 to 3 weeks after seroconversion. In other donors, neither markers of systemic infection nor parameters of organ function correlated with the course of CMV DNA and antigens.
Conclusion Potentially infectious donors can be identified by measuring CMV DNA, IgM antibodies or avidity of IgG antibodies. Alternatively, blood products donated during the first year after seroconversion should not be used for immunocompromised patients.