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BACKGROUND:Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) can be managed by monitoring HCMV DNA in the blood and giving valganciclovir when viral load exceeds a defined value. We hypothesised that such pre-emptive therapy should occur earlier than the standard 3000 genomes/ml (2520 IU/ml) when a seropositive donor transmitted virus to a seronegative recipient (D+R-) following solid organ transplantation (SOT). METHODS:Our local protocol was changed so that D+R- SOT patients commenced valganciclovir once the viral load exceeded 200 genomes/ml; 168 IU/ml (new protocol). The decision point remained at 3000 genomes/ml (old protocol) for the other two patient subgroups (D+R+, D-R+). Virological outcomes were assessed three years later, when 74 D+R- patients treated under the old protocol could be compared with 67 treated afterwards. The primary outcomes were changes in peak viral load, duration of viraemia and duration of treatment in the D+R- group. The secondary outcome was the proportion of D+R- patients who developed subsequent viraemia episodes. FINDINGS:In the D+R- patients, the median values of peak viral load (30,774 to 11,135 genomes/ml, p<0.0215) were significantly reduced on the new protocol compared to the old, but the duration of viraemia and duration of treatment were not. Early treatment increased subsequent episodes of viraemia from 33/58 (57%) to 36/49 (73%) of patients (p< 0.0743) with a significant increase (p = 0.0072) in those episodes that required treatment (16/58; 27% versus 26/49; 53%). Median peak viral load increased significantly (2,103 to 3,934 genomes/ml, p<0.0249) in the D+R+ but not in the D-R+ patient subgroups. There was no change in duration of viraemia or duration of treatment for any patient subgroup. INTERPRETATION:Pre-emptive therapy initiated at the first sign of viraemia post-transplant significantly reduced the peak viral load but increased later episodes of viraemia, consistent with the hypothesis of reduced antigenic stimulation of the immune system.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Centre for Virology University College London Medical School, London, United Kingdom.


Humans, Cytomegalovirus, Viremia, Cytomegalovirus Infections, Recurrence, DNA, Viral, Antiviral Agents, Clinical Protocols, Kidney Transplantation, Liver Transplantation, Organ Transplantation, Viral Load, Adult, Middle Aged, Tissue Donors, Female, Male, Secondary Prevention, Valganciclovir