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Pediatr Transplant. 2003 Aug;7(4):305-14.

Monitoring and modulation of Epstein-Barr virus loads in pediatric transplant patients.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Section of Hematology-Oncology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


A major risk faced by bone-marrow and solid organ transplant patients is the development of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease or post-transplant lymphoma (PTLD). In pediatric transplantation, PTLD onset is often associated with a rapid rise in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) load in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). We have analyzed EBV viral loads in PBMC over time using real-time quantitative PCR in 56 patients, 19 of which have been followed for more than 1 year. In nine patients; eight bone marrow (BMT) and one kidney transplant, PTLD was associated with a rapid rise in viral load, exceeding 1 x 10(5) EBV genomes/microg of PBMC-derived DNA. Four of these patients exceeded 1 x 10(6) EBV genomes/microg PBMC DNA. All patients with viral loads exceeding 1 x 10(5) EBV genomes/microg PBMC DNA were clearly at high risk for transplant-associated mortality, with only six of nine surviving. Importantly, only one of these deaths was directly attributable to EBV. A second elevated state of EBV load, defined as exceeding 2 x 10(4) EBV genomes/microg PBMC, was seen in a total of 12 BMT, kidney, heart, and liver transplant patients. These patients did not appear to be at immediate lethal risk for PTLD and one EBV-attributable death was found in this group as well. Thirty-four transplant patients whose EBV viral load oscillated from undetectable to 10 000 EBV genomes/microg PBMC DNA are reported as well. The threshold for normal EBV viral load based on our combined experience with viral load analysis is defined as 1 x 10(4) EBV genomes/microg PBMC DNA. The ability to rapidly analyze EBV load allows rapid changes in viral load, such as those that occur with PTLD onset, and the impact of anti-CD20 antibody therapy to be rapidly detected.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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