Predictive value of quantitative PCR-based viral burden analysis for eight human herpesviruses in pediatric solid organ transplant patients

J Mol Diagn. 2000 Nov;2(4):191-201. doi: 10.1016/S1525-1578(10)60637-X.


Human herpesviruses can cause significant morbidity and mortality in pediatric solid organ transplant recipients. It was hypothesized that viral burden quantification by polymerase chain reaction using an internal calibration standard could aid in distinguishing between viral disease and latency. Here we report the results of a 2-year prospective study of 27 pediatric solid organ (liver, kidney, or heart) transplant recipients in which multiple samples were analyzed for levels of all eight human herpesviruses by internal calibration standard-polymerase chain reaction. Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, varicella-zoster virus, and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus were not detected in any of these samples. Human herpesvirus types 6 and 7 were detected in half of the patients, but were present at low levels, similar to those found in reference populations. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) were detected in 89% and 56% of the patients, respectively. Viral burden analysis suggested distinct patient populations for CMV, with a natural cutoff of 10,000 viral targets/ml blood strongly associated with disease. In some cases, a dramatic increase in CMV levels preceded clinical evidence of disease by several weeks. EBV viral burden was relatively high in the only patient presenting with an EBV syndrome. However, two other patients without evidence of EBV disease had single samples with high EBV burden. Rapid reduction in both EBV and CMV burden occurred with antiviral treatment. These data suggest that viral burden analysis using internal calibration standard-polymerase chain reaction for CMV, and possibly other herpesviruses, is an effective method for monitoring pediatric transplant patients for significant herpesvirus infection and response to therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Herpesviridae / physiology*
  • Herpesviridae Infections / diagnosis
  • Herpesviridae Infections / virology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Infant
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Viral Load*
  • Viremia / virology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents