Background: Posttransplant lymphoproliferation is most often observed in pediatric transplant recipients who experience primary Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection at the time of or after transplantation. Lymphoproliferation is believed to be caused by impaired control of EBV-infected cells, which may be of recipient or donor origin. Most studies of EBV infection and lymphoproliferation have focused on the pediatric age group.
Methods: We have undertaken a prospective study of EBV infection in adult liver transplant recipients. Sequentially collected peripheral blood lymphocytes were examined with a recently developed quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay. The assay quantitates EBV DNA genomic titre over a 5 log10 range.
Results: Compared with healthy EBV seropositive people not undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, blood EBV DNA titre is elevated in patients with liver disease before transplantation. Overall, highest titres were observed during the first posttransplant month, and in the context of antilymphocyte therapy. In one patient, lymphoproliferation was associated with high titres which fell during reduction of immunosuppressive therapy. In another patient with lymphoproliferation of donor lymphocyte origin, blood EBV DNA titre was not as high.
Conclusions: EBV proliferation is seen in the context of advanced liver disease and after liver transplantation. EBV DNA quantitation is a useful tool to examine the effects of immunosuppression on EBV-associated lymphoproliferation, and may be an essential technique for programs exploring the merits of EBV adoptive immunotherapy.