Detection of Ganciclovir-Resistant Cytomegalovirus in a Prospective Cohort of Kidney Transplant Recipients Receiving Subtherapeutic Valganciclovir Prophylaxis

Microbiol Spectr. 2022 Jun 29;10(3):e0268421. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.02684-21. Epub 2022 Jun 6.


Cytomegalovirus infection during antiviral prophylaxis occurs in transplant recipients despite individualized regimens based on renal function. Fifty kidney transplant recipients were assessed between 2016 and 2019 for valganciclovir dosing, ganciclovir exposure, cytomegalovirus infection, and genotypic resistance markers during the first year posttransplant. Ganciclovir plasma concentrations were measured using mass spectrometry. Population pharmacokinetics was used to determine individual ganciclovir exposure and to evaluate the ability of manufacturer dosing guidelines to meet therapeutic target daily area under the curve (AUC24) of 40 to 50 μg·h/mL. Full-length UL54 and UL97 were assessed using high-throughput sequencing in cytomegalovirus DNA-positive patient specimens. Valganciclovir doses administered to recipients with creatinine clearance of <40 mL/min were higher than specified by guidelines, and they were lower for recipients with creatinine clearance of ≥40 mL/min. The mean ganciclovir AUC24 was 33 ± 13 μg·h/mL, and 82% of subjects did not attain the therapeutic target. Pharmacokinetic simulations showed that the guidelines similarly could not attain the therapeutic target in 79% of individuals. Cytomegalovirus breakthrough occurred in 6% (3/50) of recipients, while 12% (6/50) developed late-onset infection. The mean AUC24s of recipients with (n = 3) and without (n = 47) infection were not significantly different (P = 0.528). However, one recipient with an AUC24 of 20 μg·h/mL acquired two UL97 ganciclovir resistance mutations. Current prophylaxis guidelines resulted in subtherapeutic ganciclovir exposure in several study recipients, including the emergence of resistance genotypes. IMPORTANCE This study examined the pharmacokinetics and viral genomic data from a prospective cohort of kidney transplant recipients undergoing valganciclovir prophylaxis for cytomegalovirus (CMV) prevention. We showed for the first time using high-throughput sequencing the detection of ganciclovir resistance mutations in breakthrough CMV infection during subtherapeutic plasma ganciclovir as indicated by the pharmacokinetic parameter daily area under the curve (AUC24). In addition, we found that current valganciclovir dosing guidelines for CMV prophylaxis are predicted to attain therapeutic targets in only 21% of recipients, which is consistent with previous pharmacokinetic studies. The novel findings of resistance mutations during subtherapeutic ganciclovir exposure presented here can inform future studies investigating the dynamics of drug selection pressure and the emergence of resistance mutations in vivo.

Keywords: cytomegalovirus; drug monitoring; ganciclovir; organ transplant; pharmacokinetics; resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Creatinine / therapeutic use
  • Cytomegalovirus / genetics
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections* / drug therapy
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Ganciclovir / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Kidney Transplantation* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Transplant Recipients
  • Valganciclovir / therapeutic use


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Creatinine
  • Valganciclovir
  • Ganciclovir