Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease is a major complication of organ transplantation. We hypothesized that prophylactic treatment with valacyclovir would reduce the risk of CMV disease.
Methods: A total of 208 CMV-negative recipients of a kidney from a seropositive donor and 408 CMV-positive recipients were randomly assigned to receive either 2 g of valacyclovir or placebo orally four times daily for 90 days after transplantation, with the dose adjusted according to renal function. The primary end point was laboratory-confirmed CMV disease in the first six months after transplantation.
Results: Treatment with valacyclovir reduced the incidence or delayed the onset of CMV disease in both the seronegative patients (P<0.001) and the seropositive patients (P=0.03). Among the seronegative patients, the incidence of CMV disease 90 days after transplantation was 45 percent among placebo recipients and 3 percent among valacyclovir recipients. Among the seropositive patients, the respective values were 6 percent and 0 percent. At six months, the incidence of CMV disease was 45 percent among seronegative recipients of placebo and 16 percent among seronegative recipients of valacyclovir; it was 6 percent among seropositive placebo recipients and 1 percent among seropositive valacyclovir recipients. At six months, the rate of biopsy-confirmed acute graft rejection in the seronegative group was 52 percent among placebo recipients and 26 percent among valacyclovir recipients (P=0.001). Treatment with valacyclovir also decreased the rates of CMV viremia and viruria, herpes simplex virus disease, and the use of inpatient medical resources. Hallucinations and confusion were more common with valacyclovir treatment, but these events were not severe or treatment-limiting. The rates of other adverse events were similar among the groups.
Conclusions: Prophylactic treatment with valacyclovir is a safe and effective way to prevent CMV disease after renal transplantation.