Assessment of CMV load in solid organ transplant recipients by pp65 antigenemia and real-time quantitative DNA PCR assay: correlation with pp67 RNA detection

J Med Virol. 2004 Sep;74(1):78-84. doi: 10.1002/jmv.20149.


After bone marrow (BM) or solid-organ (SO) transplantation viremic Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is observed frequently. Quantitative assay of CMV in blood helps the management of this clinical condition. In the present report, 83 samples from 39 solid organ recipients, three CMV assays were compared simultaneously for the first time: the Nuclisens CMV pp67 assay (nucleic acid sequence-based amplification, NASBA), an "in-house" quantitative real-time PCR assay (TaqMan) for CMV DNA, and pp65 antigenemia. The relation between CMV DNA and pp65 antigenemia, the quantitative assays, was evaluated on a larger group including 251 blood samples from 118 solid organ recipients. Real-time PCR provided the best results; > or =130 CMV DNA copies/2 x 10(5) peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs) predicted > or =1 pp65 antigen positive (Ag+) cell/2 x 10(5) PBLs. By taking pp65 antigenemia as the "gold standard," the sensitivity of CMV DNA quantitation and of the pp67 RNA assay were 0.95 and 0.20, respectively, while the corresponding specificity values were 0.50 and 0.93. When real-time PCR was considered as the "gold standard," the sensitivity and specificity of the pp65 antigenemia were 0.65 and 0.91, respectively. Among the three tests examined, the sensitivity of the pp67 RNA assay was the lowest. On the other hand, the pp67 RNA assay was highly specific and effective in pinpointing high viremia patients. The present report, by providing predictive values for all three diagnostic profiles, DNA load, antigenemia, and pp67RNA, is a contribution for validation of real-time PCR as a new standard for quantitative assessment of CMV viremia in clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / blood
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus / physiology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / virology
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Phosphoproteins / blood
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • RNA, Messenger / blood*
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Viral Load*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / blood
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / genetics


  • Antigens, Viral
  • DNA, Viral
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • cytomegalovirus matrix protein 65kDa
  • pp67 protein, human cytomegalovirus