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Lancet. 1991 Nov 9;338(8776):1170-2.

Polymerase chain reaction to evaluate antiviral therapy for cytomegalovirus disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Tübingen, Germany.


A sensitive and specific method to monitor suppression of cytomegalovirus (CMV) replication is essential in patients treated with ganciclovir after allogeneic bone-marrow transplantation. In this study, antiviral therapy of eighteen episodes of symptomatic CMV infection in 15 such patients were followed up clinically and by virus culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Clinical improvement, culture, and PCR were assessed for their ability to predict the efficacy of ganciclovir therapy in each patient. In eleven successfully treated episodes of CMV disease (disappearance of symptoms and improvement in biochemical variables) clinical improvement was associated with an effective suppression of virus replication as shown by negative culture and PCR assays of blood and urine specimens obtained after antiviral therapy. 1 patient who did not improve clinically when receiving antiviral therapy remained both culture positive and PCR positive for CMV. 6 patients with early relapse of CMV disease or who died after an initial clinical improvement were PCR positive but culture negative after termination of therapy. Demonstration of CMV in blood and urine by PCR after stopping antiviral therapy (even when culture is negative) points to incomplete suppression of virus replication. The findings show that PCR is a better predictor of the efficacy of antiviral therapy than are culture or clinical assessment.

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