Peripheral blood leukocyte samples (n = 458) of 24 bone marrow transplant and 52 kidney transplant patients were examined weekly for the presence of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) using an improved culture technique (DEAFF; detection of early antigen fluorescent foci). In total 5 (21%) bone marrow transplant and 11 (21%) kidney transplant patients developed a viremia. Patients' samples were investigated for the presence of HCMV DNA using an in vitro DNA amplification technique, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). From the statistically evaluable viremic patients (n = 13), 110 blood samples were analyzed. In 5 of these patients, the DEAFF and PCR led to identical results. In 8 patients however the PCR was more sensitive, i.e. HCMV DNA was detected for a longer period of time. Applying statistical analysis using the McNemar test, this result was significant (P less than 0.05). The PCR applied on leukocyte samples did not detect HCMV DNA in viruric patients without viremia. Moreover, the current PCR never led to positive results with peripheral blood leukocyte samples of healthy seropositive or seronegative controls. Since the PCR can be performed in 6 hr, this technique will contribute to rapid detection of HCMV DNA in peripheral blood leukocytes and therefore to optimal clinical management of HCMV-infected transplant recipients.