We assessed the impact of antiviral preventive strategies on the incidence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infections in a nationwide cohort of transplant recipients. Risk factors for the development of HSV or VZV infection were assessed by Cox proportional hazards regression. We included 2781 patients (56% kidney, 20% liver, 10% lung, 7.3% heart, 6.7% others). Overall, 1264 (45%) patients received antiviral prophylaxis (ganciclovir or valganciclovir, n = 1145; acyclovir or valacyclovir, n = 138). Incidence of HSV and VZV infections was 28.9 and 12.1 cases, respectively, per 1000 person-years. Incidence of HSV and VZV infections at 1 year after transplant was 4.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.5–5.8) in patients receiving antiviral prophylaxis versus 12.3% (95% CI 10.7–14) in patients without prophylaxis; this was observed particularly for HSV infections (3% [95% CI 2.2–4] versus 9.8% [95% CI 8.4–11.4], respectively). A lower rate of HSV and VZV infections was also seen in donor or recipient cytomegalovirus-positive patients receiving ganciclovir or valganciclovir prophylaxis compared with a preemptive approach. Female sex (hazard ratio [HR] 1.663, p = 0.001), HSV seropositivity (HR 5.198, p < 0.001), previous episodes of rejection (HR 1.95, p = 0.004), and use of a preemptive approach (HR 2.841, p = 0.017) were significantly associated with a higher risk of HSV infection. Although HSV and VZV infections were common after transplantation, antiviral prophylaxis significantly reduced symptomatic HSV infections.
In this national cohort of solid organ transplant recipients, patients receiving antiviral prophylaxis either with (val)ganciclovir or (val)acyclovir have a lower incidence of herpes simplex virus infections compared to patients managed with a preemptive approach for cytomegalovirus infection or not receiving antiherpes prophylaxis.