Studies have shown that risk factors for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) disease after renal transplant include primary infection (virus of donor origin infecting a non-immune individual), re-infection (virus of donor origin infecting a immune individual), and the detection of viraemia (as a marker of virus dissemination). We now report that viral load in the urine is also a significant factor in HCMV disease and is one of the main mechanisms underlying the risk associated with viraemia and donor serostatus. Longitudinal analysis of a group of 196 renal recipient identified 35 recipients who were PCR positive for HCMV in urine. Elevated viral loads were present in symptomatic patients, viraemic patients, and patients experiencing primary HCMV infection. Disease was associated with the peak quantity of virus present in the urine during the post-transplant period (P = 0.0001), with viraemia (P = 0.0003), and with transplantation of a seropositive donor (P = 0.03). Univariate logistic regression analysis showed that increases of 0.25 log10 in viral load were associated with a 179% increased risk of disease (odds ratio = 2.79; 95% C.I. 1.22-6.39; P = 0.02). This effect persisted in a multivariate logistic analysis when viraemia was incorporated (odds ratio = 2.77; 95% C.I. 1.07-7.18; P = 0.04). In contrast, the significant association between viraemia and disease observed in univariate analysis (odds ratio = 23.75; 95% C.I. 3.69-152.90; P = 0.0009) became marginally non-significant in multivariate analysis once viral load had been controlled for (odds ratio = 34.54; 95% C.I. 0.75-1599.00; P = 0.07). The computed probability of disease showed that a rapid transition occurred at viral loads between 10(5.7) and 10(6.5) genomes/ml urine in non-viraemic patients compared to viral loads between 10(5.0) and 10(5.7) genomes/ml urine in patients with concurrent viraemia. The implications of these findings for understanding HCMV pathogenesis, improving patient management, and optimising trials of antiviral treatment are discussed.