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Immunol Invest. 1997 Jan-Feb;26(1-2):209-29.

Polymerase chain reaction assays for the detection of cytomegalovirus in organ and bone marrow transplant recipients.

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Department of Neurology, Roswell Park Division, State University of New York at Buffalo, USA.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is ubiquitous and results in a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations ranging from asymptomatic infection to severe life threatening disease. Infection in normal children and adults usually causes no symptoms but in the immunocompromised host, CMV may result in severe opportunistic infections with high morbidity and mortality. Historically, virus detection was dependent on culture of the virus or on a centrifugation culture system referred to as a shell vial assay. The shell vial assay frequently lacked sensitivity and was unable to detect infection in its early phase. Also, as with culture assays, the results were affected by antiviral therapy. The CMV antigenemia assay was developed to provide more rapid results and has gained wide usage. This assay is limited to detection of the virus in white blood cells and is more sensitive than culture or the shell vial assay. Application of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to these problems has resulted in the development of assays for CMV which are more sensitive than previously available methods. This method employs liquid hybridization with 32P labeled probes and gel retardation analysis for detection of amplified DNA specific for each virus. A comparison of the detection of CMV by an antigenemia assay or the PCR method in the leukocytes of renal transplant patients revealed that the PCR assay detects cytomegalovirus earlier and more consistently than the antigenemia assay. Finally, the application of a fluorescent dye detection system and image analysis of the acrylamide gel with a laser scanner provides additional sensitivity to the detection of cytomegalovirus, as well as avoiding the use of radioactivity, making the assay more adaptable to the clinical laboratory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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