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Pediatr Transplant. 2020 Feb;24(1):e13601. doi: 10.1111/petr.13601. Epub 2019 Oct 27.

CD154-expressing CMV-specific T cells associate with freedom from DNAemia and may be protective in seronegative recipients after liver or intestine transplantation.

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Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Plexision Inc, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Cell-mediated immunity to CMV, if known, could improve antiviral drug therapy in at-risk children and young adults with LT and IT. Host immunity has been measured with CMV-specific T cells, which express IFNγ, but not those which express CD154, a possible substitute for IFNγ. CMV-specific CD154+ T cells and their subsets were measured with flow cytometry after stimulating PBL from recipient blood samples with an overlapping peptide mix of CMV-pp65 antigen for up to 6 hours. CMV-specific CD154+ T cells co-expressed IFNγ in PBL from three healthy adults and averaged 3.8% (95% CI 3.2%-4.4%) in 40 healthy adults. CMV-specific T cells were significantly lower in 19 CMV DNAemic LT or IT recipients, compared with 126 non-DNAemic recipients, 1.3% (95% CI 0.8-1.7) vs 4.1 (95% CI 3.6-4.6, P < .001). All T-cell subsets demonstrated similar between-group differences. In logistic regression analysis of 46 training set samples, 12 with DNAemia, all obtained between days 0 and 60 from transplant, CMV-specific T-cell frequencies ≥1.7% predicted freedom from DNAemia with NPV of 93%. Sensitivity, specificity, and PPV were 83%, 74%, and 53%, respectively. Test performance was replicated in 99 validation samples. In 32 of 46 training set samples, all from seronegative recipients, one of 19 recipients with CMV-specific T-cell frequencies ≥1.7% experienced DNAemia, compared with 8 of 13 recipients with frequencies <1.7% (P = .001). CMV-specific CD154+ T cells are associated with freedom from DNAemia after LT and IT. Among seronegative recipients, CMV-specific T cells may protect against the development of CMV DNAemia.


cell-mediated immunity; cytomegalovirus; intestine transplantation; liver transplantation


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