The role of PCR in the diagnosis and management of CMV in solid organ recipients: what is the predictive value for the development of disease and should PCR be used to guide antiviral therapy?

Transplantation. 1997 Jan 27;63(2):275-9. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199701270-00017.


Cytomegalovirus remains a significant source of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised hosts. The increased sensitivity of molecular diagnostic techniques (PCR, antigenemia) has resulted in our ability to detect viral replication earlier in the posttransplant period, before the onset of symptoms. With the advent of effective antiviral therapy, "preemptive therapy," guided by sensitive, early and specific predictors of CMV disease, has become a realistic objective. Although multiple studies have analyzed the sensitivity and specificity of these tests, their predictive value for the development of disease has not been defined. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the predictive value of a positive CMV PCR in the setting of solid abdominal organ transplantation. A total of 476 PCR assays were performed on 134 transplant recipients (102 kidney, 19 kidney/pancreas, 11 liver, 2 other) either as protocol serial samples or as dictated by clinical events. All samples were concomitantly analyzed using standard virological assays for CMV including culture, shell vial, and serology. Patients with any CMV seropositive donor/recipient (D/R) combination received ganciclovir prophylaxis in conjunction with antilymphocyte induction for 14 days. No subsequent CMV prophylaxis was used. The positive predictive value was 55% in all seropositive donor/recipient combinations. The highest risk group (seronegative recipient of seropositive donor) showed the highest positive predictive value, whereas seropositive recipients of either seropositive or seronegative donors showed positive predictive values of 45% and 25%, respectively. Negative predictive value was 100% for all groups. Early detection of CMV infection has important implications for patient management, including preemptive therapy, which can be guided by PCR, especially in high risk (D+/R-) patients.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cytomegalovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Ganciclovir / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Pancreas Transplantation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transplantation*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Ganciclovir
  • Acyclovir