Prospective Analysis of Human Cytomegalovirus DNAemia and Specific CD8+ T Cell Responses in Lung Transplant Recipients


Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl,


In lung transplant recipients (LuTRs), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) DNAemia may be associated with HCMV disease and reduced survival of the allograft. Because T cells are essential for controlling HCMV replication, we investigated in this prospective study whether the kinetics of plasma HCMV DNA loads in LuTRs are associated with HCMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses, which were longitudinally assessed using a standardized assay. Sixty-seven LuTRs were monitored during the first year posttransplantation, with a mean of 17 HCMV DNA PCR quantifications and 11.5 CD8+ T cell tests performed per patient. HCMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses displayed variable kinetics in different patients, differed significantly before the onset of HCMV DNAemia in LuTRs who subsequently experienced episodes of DNAemia with high (>1000 copies/mL) and low plasma DNA levels (p = 0.0046, Fisher's exact test), and were absent before HCMV disease. In HCMV-seropositive LuTRs, high-level DNAemia requiring preemptive therapy occurred more frequently when HCMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses fluctuated, were detected only after HCMV DNA detection, or remained undetectable (p = 0.0392, Fisher's exact test). Thus, our data indicate that HCMV-specific CD8+ T cells influence the magnitude of HCMV DNAemia episodes, and we propose that a standardized measurement of CD8+ T cell immunity might contribute to monitoring the immune status of LuTRs posttransplantation.