Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV)-associated interstitial pneumonia is a major cause of death after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. We conducted a controlled trial of ganciclovir in recipients of bone marrow transplants who had asymptomatic pulmonary CMV infection. We also sought to identify risk factors for the development of CMV interstitial pneumonia.
Methods: After bone marrow transplantation, 104 patients who had no evidence of respiratory disease underwent routine bronchoalveolar lavage on day 35. The 40 patients who had positive cultures for CMV were randomly assigned to either prophylactic ganciclovir or observation alone. Ganciclovir (5 mg per kilogram of body weight intravenously) was given twice daily for two weeks and then five times per week until day 120.
Results: Of the 20 culture-positive patients who received prophylactic ganciclovir, 5 (25 percent) died or had CMV pneumonia before day 120, as compared with 14 of the 20 culture-positive control patients (70 percent) who were not treated prophylactically (relative risk, 0.36; P = 0.01). No patient who received the full course of ganciclovir prophylaxis went on to have CMV interstitial pneumonia. Four patients treated with ganciclovir had maximal serum creatinine levels greater than or equal to 221 mumol per liter (2.5 mg per deciliter), as compared with none of the controls (P = 0.029). Of the 55 CMV-negative patients who could be evaluated, 12 (22 percent) had CMV pneumonia--a significantly lower rate than in the untreated CMV-positive control patients (relative risk, 0.33; P = 0.003). The strongest predictors of CMV pneumonia were a lavage-fluid culture that was positive for CMV and a CMV-positive blood culture, both from specimens obtained on day 35.
Conclusion: In recipients of allogeneic bone marrow, asymptomatic CMV infection of the lung is a major risk factor for subsequent CMV interstitial pneumonia. Prophylactic ganciclovir is effective in preventing the development of CMV interstitial pneumonia in patients with asymptomatic infection.