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J Clin Microbiol. 2012 Jun;50(6):1974-80. doi: 10.1128/JCM.06406-11. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Human cytomegalovirus-specific T-cell immune reconstitution in preemptively treated heart transplant recipients identifies subjects at critical risk for infection.

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Department of Molecular Medicine, Padua General Hospital, University of Padua School of Medicine, Padua, Italy.


Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection represents a major threat for heart transplant recipients (HTXs). CMV-specific T cells effectively control virus infection, and thus, assessment of antiviral immune recovery may have clinical utility in identifying HTXs at risk of infection. In this study, 10 CMV-seropositive (R(+)) pretransplant patients and 48 preemptively treated R(+) HTXs were examined before and after 100 days posttransplant. Preemptive treatment is supposed to favor the immune recovery. CMV DNAemia and gamma interferon enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISPOT) assay were employed to assess the viremia and immune reconstitution. HTXs could be categorized into three groups characterized by high (>100), medium (50 to 100), and low (<50) spot levels. Early-identified high responders efficiently controlled the infection and also maintained high immunity levels after 100 days after transplant. No episodes of grade ≥2R rejection occurred in the high responders. Midresponders were identified as a group with heterogeneous trends of immune reconstitution. Low responders were 41% and 21% of HTXs before and after 100 days posttransplant, respectively. Low responders were associated with a higher incidence of infection. The effect of viremia on immune recovery was investigated: a statistically significant inverse correlation between magnitude of viremia and immune recovery emerged; in particular, each 10-fold increase in viremia (>4 log(10) DNAemia/ml) was associated with a 36% decrease of the ELISPOT assay spot levels. All episodes of high viremia (>4 log(10) DNAemia/ml) occurred from 1 to 60 days after transplant. Thus, the concomitant evaluation of viremia and CMV immune reconstitution has clinical utility in identifying HTXs at risk of infection and may represent a helpful guide in making therapeutic choices.

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