Background. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most prevalent viral disease in solid organ transplantation. Detection of CMV DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) frequently occurs in renal allograft recipients, yielding false positive results in seropositive patients free of CMV disease. We evaluated the clinical utility of a quantitative PCR-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for identifying patients with CMV disease. Methods. Three hundred and fifty samples from 65 consecutive renal transplant recipients were studied. DNA was extracted from PBMC weekly up to the day of discharge and after any further admission. Samples were tested by a qualitative PCR method, and all positive samples were further studied by a quantitative PCR-ELISA method. The quantitative PCR-ELISA method used an internal standard (IS) that contained the primer sequences used in the qualitative CMV PCR. Detection and quantification was performed in 96-well plates coated with IS or CMV specific probes. Results. Forty-one of 65 patients (63.1%) showed positive results by the qualitative PCR, but only 8 of these patients were diagnosed with CMV disease. Positive samples were re-analyzed by the quantitative assay. The 8 patients with CMV disease had a mean CMV viral load of 1,438±687 vital copies (VC)/106 PBMC, and the 33 without CMV disease had a mean value of 219.6±117.2 VC/106 PBMC (P<0.01). None of the 33 patients without CMV disease had viral loads higher than 500 VC/106 PBMC. Using 500 VC/106 PBMC as a cut-off value for CMV disease, the quantitative PCR showed a sensitivity and specificity of 100% compare to clinical diagnosis. Conclusion. CMV viral load may be useful in the diagnosis of CMV disease in renal transplant patients.
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