Serial measurement of Epstein-Barr viral load in peripheral blood in pediatric liver transplant recipients during treatment for posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease

Transplantation. 1998 Dec 27;66(12):1641-4. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199812270-00012.


Background: Few data are available describing the natural history of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) viral load after the diagnosis of EBV-associated posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD). Accordingly, we prospectively followed the EBV viral load after the diagnosis of EBV/PTLD in seven pediatric orthotopic liver transplant recipients.

Methods: EBV viral loads were serially measured by quantitative competitive polymerase chain reaction of the peripheral blood from pediatric patients with PTLD and correlated with the clinical course of these children. Viral loads >200 genome copies/10(5) peripheral blood lymphocytes were considered consistent with an increased risk of PTLD. Viral loads <200 obtained during treatment for PTLD were considered evidence of "clearance" of EBV; subsequent loads >200 were considered evidence of virologic "rebound."

Results: The mean EBV viral load at the time of diagnosis of PTLD was 1029. All patients "cleared" their EBV viral load during the treatment of PTLD; patient and graft survival in this series was 100%. The mean time to clearance of EBV from the peripheral blood (18.8 days) was similar to the mean time to onset of first rejection (13.8 days). EBV viral load at the time of diagnosis of rejection after PTLD was always <100. A rebound in the EBV viral load to >200 was noted in five of seven patients a median of 3.5 months (range 2.3-13 months) after the diagnosis of EBV/PTLD. However, none of these children has had any evidence of PTLD recurrence.

Conclusions: Clearance of the EBV viral load from the peripheral blood seems to correlate with restoration of the host's immune response as noted both by the regression of the PTLD and the onset of rejection. Late rebound of the EBV viral load is common and does not seem to predict disease recurrence.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / therapy
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / virology*
  • Viremia / virology*