Diagnosis of significant infections by human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) and 7 (HHV7) in transplant patients has proved difficult because both viruses are ubiquitous and can cause persistent infections in their hosts. The significance of viral DNA detected in peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs; DNAemia) by PCR is therefore unclear. The interpretation of serological results is complicated by the fact that both primary and secondary infections with other herpesviruses may be associated with a concurrent antibody response to HHV6. Fifty-four renal allograft recipients were studied prospectively and their serological response to HHV6, HHV7 and CMV were compared with the detection of viral DNAemia from the homologous and heterologous viruses. Serum and heparinished blood samples were collected prospectively from 54 renal allograft recipients. DNA was extracted from PBLs and tested for the presence of HHV6, HHV7 and CMV DNA by PCR. Antibodies to HHV6 and HHV7 were measured by an indirect immunofluorescence test and to CMV by an anticomplement immunofluorescence (ACIF) test. CMV IgM antibodies were detected by a commercial enzyme immunoassay. CMV and HHV7 DNAemia were each significantly associated with serological responses to the homologous virus but no such association was found for HHV6 DNAemia. However, patients with consecutively positive DNAemia to any of the viruses (including HHV6) were more likely to have a homologous serological response. Patients who had detectable CMV IgM without a concurrent rise in CMV antibodies were significantly less likely to have CMV DNAemia (odds ratio = 0.16; 95% CI 0.02-0.9). CMV IgM antibodies may be associated with HHV6 or HHV7 DNAemia (odds ratio 2.3; 95% CI 0.5-15). This serological profile may reflect a crossreactive response to HHV6, HHV7 or other herpesviruses. CMV IgM should not be used in isolation for the diagnosis of CMV infection or disease in this group of patients.