Background: The ultimate goal of organ transplantation is the reestablishment of organ function and the restoration of a solid immunity to prevent the assault of potentially deadly pathogens. T cell immunity is crucial in controlling cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. It is still unknown how preexisting antiviral T cell levels, prophylaxis, or preemptive antiviral strategies and pharmacological conditioning affect immune reconstitution.
Methods: Seventy preemptively treated CMV-seropositive recipients, 13 prophylaxis-treated CMV-seronegative recipients of seropositive donor transplants, 2 seropositive recipients of seronegative donor kidneys, and 27 pretransplant subjects were enrolled in a cross-sectional study and analyzed for CMV viremia (DNAemia) and CMV-specific T cell response (interferon-gamma enzyme-linked immunospot assay) before transplantation and at 30, 60, 90, 180, and 360 days after transplantation.
Results: CMV-seropositive transplant recipients displayed a progressive but heterogeneous pattern of immune reconstitution starting from day 60 after transplantation. CMV-seronegative recipients did not mount a detectable T cell response throughout the prophylaxis regimen. A single episode of CMV viremia (CMV copy number, 7000-170,000 copies/mL) was sufficient to prime a protective T cell immune response in CMV-seronegative recipients. Antithymocyte globulin treatment did not significantly affect CMV-specific T cell response.
Conclusions: Baseline immunity, antiviral therapy but not antithymocyte globulin treatments profoundly influence T cell reconstitution in kidney transplant recipients.