CMV monitoring using blood cells and plasma: a comparison of apples with oranges?

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Quantitative cytomegalovirus (CMV) monitoring is still far from being standardized between transplant centers. In the present study, we compared assays for quantitative CMV monitoring using blood cells and plasma. Four hundred and thirty-five consecutive samples from 29 patients with active CMV infection after allogeneic T-cell-depleted hemopoietic stem cell transplantation were tested in parallel using pp65 antigenemia and quantitative CMV polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in blood cells and plasma (COBAS AMPLICOR CMV MONITOR). Although only 142 (53.1%) of 253 positive samples were concordantly identified by all three assays, the number of positive samples detected by each assay was not different and the quantitative values were correlated, provided that nucleic acid (NA) in plasma was isolated by COBAS AmpliPrep and not by the manual protocol. Six (18%) of 34 episodes with active CMV infection were not detected using CMV PCR in plasma; whereas in times of white blood cell aplasia or blast crisis of leukemia, samples with active CMV infection in plasma could not be detected using blood cells. We conclude that CMV monitoring in whole blood could be favorable compared with assays using plasma or blood cells alone. Automated NA isolation could become an attractive tool for a more sensitive and better standardized molecular diagnostics.

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