Screening for PTLD in lung and heart–lung transplant recipients by measuring EBV DNA load in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid using real time PCR

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Pediatric L-HLTx recipients are at risk for developing PTLD with the lung being a primary site of disease. We hypothesized that BALF is a better sample than peripheral blood for measuring EBV DNA load in this high-risk population. Archived BALF specimens from pediatric L-HLTx recipients with and without PTLD were assayed for EBV DNA load using a quantitative real time TaqMan PCR assay. These values were compared with values determined in peripheral blood by a competitive PCR assay. Fifty-five BALF specimens from 16 L-HLTx patients were evaluated. Three patients with PTLD had mean BALF EBV DNA load values almost 50-fold higher than subjects without PTLD (4.6 × 105 copies/mL vs. 1.0 × 104 copies/mL). Patients who were EBV seronegative pretransplantation (i.e., high risk for PTLD) had elevated EBV DNA load values vs. patients who were EBV seropositive pretransplantation, regardless of the diagnosis of PTLD (mean values of 3.2 × 105 copies/mL vs. 1.1 × 104 copies/mL). Lastly, BALF analysis identified all subjects with PTLD, whereas peripheral blood analysis identified only one of these cases. Therefore, it can be concluded that monitoring EBV DNA load in BALF following L-HLTx facilitates detection of PTLD in high-risk patients and may be superior to peripheral blood assays.

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