Detectable cytomegalovirus (CMV)-specific T cells in CMV-seronegative kidney transplant recipients (KTRs) have been attributed to an absence of circulating antibodies despite CMV sensitization. The diagnostic value of CMV-specific T cells, however, needs to be implemented in risk stratification for CMV replication.Methods
Three hundred twenty-six KTRs were studied and classified with respect to CMV serostatus and presence of CMV-specific T cells. Samples were collected pretransplantation, at +1, +2, and +3 months posttransplantation. CMV-specific T cells directed to CMV-IE1 and CMV-pp65 were measured by interferon-γ Elispot assay.Results
Nineteen (28%) of 67 D+R− KTRs showed pretransplant CMV-specific T cells. Although no differences were observed for CMV replication, KTRs with CMV-specific T cells presented with lower initial and peak CMV loads (P < 0.05). KTRs with decreasing/undetectable CMV-IE1–specific T cells pretransplantation and posttransplantation were at greatest risk of CMV replication. KTRs with stable/increasing CMV-IE1–specific T cells from pretransplantation to posttransplantation, however, showed low risk of CMV replication (P < 0.001). One hundred sixty-two (80%) of 203 R+ KTRs showed pretransplant CMV-specific T cells. Decreasing/undetectable CMV-IE1–specific T cells from pretransplantation and posttransplantation identified those R+ KTRs at increased risk of CMV replication (65/80 KTRs; 81%; P < 0.001).Conclusions
Despite CMV prophylaxis, D+R− KTRs are at greatest risk of CMV disease. Our data suggest that monitoring CMV-specific T cell kinetics from pretransplantation to posttransplantation, particularly directed to CMV-IE1, offers superior risk stratification compared with CMV serostatus alone.