In the diagnosis of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, it is very important to distinguish symptomatic from asymptomatic infection. The nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) technique was compared with single and nested polymerase chainreaction (PCR) methods. For NASBA detection, the beta2.7 transcript was chosen as a target because of its abundant active HCMV-specific expression. Of 20 pediatric bone marrow transplant (BMT) recipients, 8 developed HCMV-related clinical symptoms. The clinical sensitivities and specificities were 50% and 100% for single PCR, 100% and 67% for nested PCR, and 100% and 83% for NASBA, respectively. Follow-up of HCMV infections in pediatric BMT recipients showed that NASBA could both detect viral transcript prior to the onset of clinical symptoms and reflect clinical improvement due to antiviral therapy. These data suggest that NASBA should be useful for both predicting HCMV disease development and monitoring the effect of antiviral therapy.