Cytomegalovirus infection of renal allografts: Detection by polymerase chain reaction
Polymerase Chain Reaction
Early laboratory diagnosis of acute cytomegalovirus infection in renal transplant recipients is desirable but often difficult. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique for detecting CMV DNA, although it promises a high sensitivity, risks the possibility of detecting latent CMV infection and leading to false-positive results. To address this issue and the feasibility of applying PCR to renal biopsy specimens, we analyzed 37 renal allografts by PCR. Formalin-fixed or Bouin-fixed paraffin-embedded materials were employed, and primers from the LA (late-antigen) region of CMV were used. Amplified products were detected by gel electrophoresis and ethidium bromide staining, followed by Southern blot analysis. Of 21 nephrectomy samples, three showed CMV-specific amplified products by PCR, but CMV inclusion bodies were detected histologically in only one of the three. Of 16 renal biopsies, three specimens were positive by PCR, with rare viral inclusions histologically identified in only one. All PCR-positive patients had clinically significant CMV disease as evidenced by positive CMV culture and/or seroconversion. In contrast, all CMV-seropositive patients without active viral disease had PCR-negative allografts. We conclude that PCR positivity in the renal allograft strongly correlates with active CMV disease but not latent infection. For the diagnosis of active CMV disease in patients with a renal allograft, PCR provides a means that is more sensitive and objective than histologic examination, more specific than serology, and faster than viral culture.