Evaluation of human cytomegalovirus gene expression in thoracic organ transplant recipients using nucleic acid sequence-based amplification

N Oldenburg, K M Lam, M A Khan, B Top, N M Tacken, A McKie, G W Mikhail, J M Middeldorp, A Wright, N R Banner, M Yacoub

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BACKGROUND: Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is a major cause of morbidity in transplant patients. Early diagnosis and treatment have been shown to improve outcome. We evaluated the suitability of CMV immediate early, early, and late gene expression detected by nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) as markers of CMV infection.

METHODS: Blood samples were taken immediately before transplant and every one to two weeks after transplantation for 12 weeks from 50 patients undergoing thoracic organ transplantation. CMV-NASBA was performed and results compared with serology, CMV pp65 antigenaemia (CMV-AG) and the development of clinical CMV infection. Patients received "preemptive" anti-CMV therapy with ganciclovir based on the CMV-AG results.

RESULTS: CMV immediate early and early gene expression were detected in 87 and 47%, respectively, of patients without other evidence of CMV infection. CMV late gene expression had a sensitivity of 97% for infection (compared with 83% for CMV-AG P=0.06) and a specificity of 93% (compared with 100% P=NS). Late gene expression occurred at the same time as CMV antigenaemia but 1.1 weeks earlier than the threshold of antigenaemia (CMV-AG>10) used to initiate preemptive therapy.

CONCLUSION: NASBA provided a standardized tool for the detection of CMV transcripts with a greater sensitivity than the standard antigenemia test. Detection of immediate early and early gene transcripts was not specific for subsequent infection. CMV late gene expression determined by NASBA was an accurate and early marker of CMV infection. Detection of CMV late gene expression could be used to trigger "preemptive" anti-CMV therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-15
Number of pages7
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2000


  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Comparative Study
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections
  • Female
  • Ganciclovir
  • Genes, Viral
  • Heart Transplantation
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Journal Article
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Sustained Sequence Replication
  • Transcription, Genetic

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