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Liver Transpl. 2005 Oct;11(10):1289-94.

Recurrent herpes simplex virus hepatitis after liver retransplantation despite acyclovir therapy.

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Institute of Pathology, Department of General Pathology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.


Herpes virus hepatitis (HSV) represents a form of acute necrotizing hepatitis, which most frequently develops in immunocompromised patients. Therapeutic options include high-dose intravenous acyclovir and liver transplantation. We report the first case of recurrent HSV hepatitis after liver retransplantation, which occurred despite continuous administration of high-dose intravenous antiviral therapy. Because explant histology pointed to initial therapy response, we thought that the reason for recurrence might be due to acyclovir resistance. Most acyclovir resistance is caused by inactivating mutations in the herpes virus thymidine kinase gene. HSV infection was detected by histology and proofed by immunohistochemistry. PCR amplification of the herpes virus thymidine kinase gene was performed on histology specimens to demonstrate the course of viral infection in liver tissue. Genotypic resistance testing of the herpes virus was performed by sequencing the thymidine kinase amplicon. In serial biopsy, HSV-DNA sequences were only detectable when histology revealed herpes hepatitis. Whereas the primary explant exhibited the wild-type thymidine kinase gene, a biopsy of the second graft one month after retransplantation, which showed recurrent herpes virus hepatitis, had a single base insertion within a homopolymeric cytosine stretch. This mutation causes a frame shift leading to a premature stop codon and results in a known acyclovir-resistant herpes strain. In conclusion, we believe that testing for acyclovir-resistant herpes strains should be considered in high-risk patients in whom viral clearance is not achieved serologically to prevent fatal recurrence of disease by using antiviral drugs such as inhibitors of HSV-DNA polymerase or viral helicase primase inhibitors.

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