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BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Jul 17;17(1):501. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2599-y.

Cytomegalovirus viraemia and mortality in renal transplant recipients in the era of antiviral prophylaxis. Lessons from the western Australian experience.

Author information

School of Public Health, Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia.
ANZDATA Registry, Adelaide, Australia.
Department of Renal Medicine, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, WA, Australia.
Department of Infectious Diseases, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch, WA, Australia.
Department of Microbiology, PathWest Laboratory Medicine, Perth, WA, Australia.
Department of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch, WA, Australia.
, North Ryde, NSW, Australia.
School of Public Health, Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia.
Translational Renal Research Group, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, QEII Medical Centre, Nedlands, WA, Australia.



Cytomegalovirus (CMV) establishes a lifelong infection that is efficiently controlled by the immune system; this infection can be reactivated in case of immunosuppression such as following solid organ transplantation. CMV viraemia has been associated with CMV disease, as well as increased mortality and allograft failure. Prophylactic antiviral medication is routinely given to renal transplant recipients, but reactivation during and following cessation of antiviral prophylaxis is known to occur. The aims of this study were to assess the incidence, timing and impact of CMV viraemia in renal transplant recipients and to determine the level of viraemia associated with adverse clinical outcomes.


Data from all adult (18 years and over) Western Australian renal transplant recipients transplanted between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2012 were obtained from the Australia and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant registry and were supplemented with data obtained from clinical records. Potential risk factors for detectable CMV viraemia (≥600 copies/ml) and all-cause mortality were assessed using univariable analysis and Cox Proportional Hazards Regression.


There were 438 transplants performed on 435 recipients. The following factors increased the risk of CMV viraemia with viral loads ≥600 copies/ml: Donor positive/Recipient negative status; receiving a graft from a deceased donor; and receiving a graft from a donor aged 60 years and over. CMV viraemia with viral loads ≥656 copies/ml was a risk factor for death following renal transplantation, as was being aged 65 years and above at transplant, being Aboriginal and having vascular disease. Importantly 37% of the episodes of CMV viraemia with viral loads ≥656 copies/ml occurred while the patients were expected to be on CMV prophylaxis.


CMV viraemia (≥656 copies/ml) was associated with all-cause mortality in multivariable analysis, and CMV viraemia at ≥656 copies/ml commonly occurred during the period when renal transplant recipients were expected to be on antiviral prophylaxis. A greater vigilance in monitoring CMV levels if antiviral prophylaxis is stopped prematurely or poor patient compliance is suspected could protect some renal transplant recipients from adverse outcomes such as premature mortality.


Cytomegalovirus reactivation; Mortality; Renal transplantation; Risk factors

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