Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease is a frequent cause of serious morbidity after solid-organ transplantation. The prophylactic regimens used to prevent CMV infection and disease have shown limited benefit in seronegative recipients. We studied the safety and efficacy of oral ganciclovir in the prevention of CMV disease following orthotopic liver transplantation.
Methods: Between December, 1993, and April, 1995, 304 liver-transplant recipients were randomised to receive oral ganciclovir 1000 mg or matching placebo three times a day. Seronegative recipients of seronegative livers were excluded. Study drug was administered as soon as the patient was able to take medication by mouth (no later than day 10) until the 98th day after transplantation. Patients were assessed at specified times throughout the first 6 months after surgery for evidence of CMV infection, CMV disease, rejection, opportunistic infections, and possible drug toxicity.
Findings: The Kaplan-Meier estimate of the 6-month incidence of CMV disease was 29 (18.9%) of 154 in the placebo group, compared with seven (4.8%) of 150 in the ganciclovir group (p < 0.001). In the high-risk group of seronegative recipients (R-) of seropositive livers (D+), incidence of CMV disease was 11 (44.0%) of 25 in the placebo group, three (14.8%) of 21 in the ganciclovir group (p = 0.02). Significant benefit was also observed in those receiving antibodies to lymphocytes, where the incidence of CMV disease was 12 (32.9%) of 37 in the placebo group and two (4.6%) of 44 in the ganciclovir group (p = 0.002). Oral ganciclovir reduced the incidence of CMV infection (placebo 79 [51.5%] of 154; ganciclovir 37 [24.5%] of 150; p < 0.001) and also reduced symptomatic herpes-simplex infections (Kaplan-Meier estimates: placebo 36 [23.5%] of 154; ganciclovir five [3.5%] of 150; p < 0.001).
Interpretation: Oral ganciclovir is a safe and effective method for the prevention of CMV disease after orthotopic liver transplantation.