What are the implications of cardiac infection with cytomegalovirus before heart transplantation?
To elucidate prognostic implications of recipient cytomegalovirus infection before heart transplantation, we prospectively followed the clinical outcome of 21 transplant recipients whose explanted hearts (myocardium and coronary arteries) were first examined for the presence of cytomegalovirus DNA with polymerase chain reaction. Subsequently, serial endomyocardial biopsy tissue samples obtained from the allograft during routine evaluation for rejection were analyzed by polymerase chain reaction for both an immediate early and late cytomegalovirus gene region of cytomegalovirus DNA. Humoral cytomegalovirus immunoglobulin G antibodies were also measured by radioimmunoassay. Both early and late antigens were present in 14 of 21 (67%) explants from patients with (12 of 15 explants) and without (2 of 6 explants) pretransplant cytomegalovirus antibodies. Although the presence of both early and late antigens was uncommon in allografts the first week after transplantation (5 of 20 allografts, 25%), their presence significantly increased at 1 month (14 of 21 allografts, 67%) and 2 to 3 months (13 of 17 allografts, 77%) regardless of pretransplantation cytomegalovirus antibody status. The presence of both early and late antigens in explant tissue strongly predicted allograft virus status during the follow-up periods. Of five patients in whom clinical cytomegalovirus disease subsequently developed, all had explants positive for both early and late antigens, and all allografts were positive for early and late antigens within 1 month after transplantation. These are the first prospective data to correlate pretransplantation serum antibodies and explant polymerase chain reaction status with the development of future allograft infections and overall clinical outcome.