Background: Despite recent advances in diagnosis and treatment, cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection continues to be a common cause of morbidity in liver transplant (LT) recipients. Because CMV infection suppresses cell-mediated immunity, which seems to be important in neutralizing hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, we assessed the impact of CMV infection on histopathological HCV recurrence after LT.
Methods: The study group was comprised of 43 consecutive LT recipients with at least 6 months of histologic follow-up. Group 1 consisted of the 8 patients who developed CMV viremia after LT; group 2 comprised the 35 patients without CMV viremia. There was no significant difference with regard to age, initial immunosuppression, incidence of rejection, distribution of HCV genotypes, or mean follow-up between the groups. Semiquantitative histopathologic assessment of allograft hepatitis was performed using the Knodell's score.
Results: The mean total Knodell score of the final allograft biopsy was significantly greater in group 1 patients (P=0.016), with most of the difference due to periportal/bridging necrosis (P=0.009) and lobular activity subitem (P=0.01) scores. Half of the CMV viremic patients eventually developed allograft cirrhosis as compared with 11% of the CMV-negative patients (P=0.027). Accordingly, the cirrhosis-free actuarial survival by Kaplan-Meier estimates was significantly diminished in the CMV viremic patients. Glycoprotein B genotype analysis of CMV isolates revealed no significant differences between patients who did and those who did not develop allograft cirrhosis.
Conclusions: After LT for chronic HCV, patients who develop CMV viremia incur a significantly greater risk of severe HCV recurrence.