Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is a risk factor for acute and chronic rejection of transplanted organs and is thought to mediate rejection indirectly.
Methods: In this retrospective observational cohort study, early- and end-stage biopsies from renal allografts lost because of chronic allograft dysfunction (n = 29) were examined for CMV antigens and DNA using immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Results: CMV immediate-early and late proteins were present in 27 (93%) of 29 of the end-stage chronic allograft dysfunction biopsies and in 64% of the corresponding early biopsies but not in pretransplant biopsies from CMV-seronegative donors (n = 3). Graft survival time was reduced in patients with moderate or high CMV levels in the graft soon after transplantation compared with that in patients with no or low CMV levels in the graft. No significant difference was observed in serum creatinine obtained at the time of early biopsies.
Conclusions: We provide evidence that intragraft CMV protein expression is associated with end-stage chronic renal allograft dysfunction, that intragraft CMV levels increase as graft function deteriorates, and that CMV protein expression in the grafts soon after transplant is associated with reduced graft survival. Thus, CMV may have a pathological role in chronic renal allograft dysfunction.