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Blood. 2003 Jan 15;101(2):407-14. Epub 2002 Sep 12.

Late cytomegalovirus disease and mortality in recipients of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants: importance of viral load and T-cell immunity.

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Program in Infectious Diseases Immunology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington 98109, USA.


Ganciclovir effectively prevents cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in the first 100 days after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), but late-onset CMV disease is increasingly observed. We designed a prospective cohort study to define the incidence and risk factors for late CMV infection in patients who undergo HSCT. CMV-seropositive patients were studied prospectively for CMV infection (quantitative pp65 antigenemia, quantitative CMV-DNA, blood culture), T-cell immunity (CMV-specific CD4(+) T-helper and CD8(+) cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses, CD4 and CD8 T-cell count, absolute lymphocyte count), and other transplantation-related factors. Univariate and multivariable analyses were used to assess the risk for late CMV infection and disease and to assess overall survival. Late CMV disease developed in 26 of 146 (17.8%) patients a median of 169 days after transplantation (range, 96-784 days); the mortality rate was 46%. Thirty-eight percent of patients surviving late disease had a second episode a median of 79 days after the first episode. At 3 months after transplantation, preceding detection of CMV pp65 antigenemia, CD4 T-cell counts lower than 50 cells/mm(3), postengraftment absolute lymphopenia levels lower than 100 lymphocytes/mm(3), undetectable CMV-specific T-cell responses, and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) were associated with late CMV disease or death. After 3 months, continued detection of pp65 antigenemia or CMV DNA in plasma or peripheral blood leukocytes and lymphopenia (fewer than 300 lymphocytes/mm(3)) were strong predictors of late CMV disease and death. In conclusion, CMV viral load, lymphopenia, and CMV-specific T-cell immunodeficiency are predictors of late CMV disease and death after allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Prevention strategies should be targeted at patients in whom CMV reactivated during the first 3 months and those with poor CMV-specific immunity or low CD4 counts.

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