Despite remarkable advances in the diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for its management, cytomegalovirus (CMV) remains one of the most important pathogens impacting on the outcome of transplantation. Not only does CMV directly cause morbidity and occasional mortality, it also influences many short-term and long-term indirect effects that collectively contribute to reduced allograft and patient survival. Prevention of CMV infection and disease is therefore key in ensuring the successful outcome of solid organ transplantation (SOT). In this regard, antiviral prophylaxis and pre-emptive therapy are similarly effective in preventing CMV disease after transplantation. However, current guidelines prefer antiviral prophylaxis over pre-emptive therapy in preventing CMV disease in high-risk SOT recipients, such as CMV-seronegative recipients of organs from CMV-seropositive donors (CMV D+/R-), and lung, intestinal and pancreas transplant recipients. Antiviral prophylaxis has the benefits of reducing not only the incidence of CMV disease, but also the indirect effects of CMV on allograft and patient survival. The major drawback of antiviral prophylaxis is delayed-onset CMV disease, which occurs in 15-38% of CMV D+/R- SOT recipients who received 3 months of prophylaxis. Allograft rejection, over-immunosuppression and lack of CMV-specific immunity are factors that predispose patients to delayed-onset CMV disease. A recent randomized trial in CMV D+/R- kidney recipients demonstrates a significant reduction in the incidence of CMV disease when valganciclovir prophylaxis is extended to 200 days (compared with the standard 100 days) after transplantation; however, the safety and cost of this prolonged approach has yet to be assessed. In some studies, delayed-onset CMV disease has been significantly associated with allograft loss and mortality. In the vast majority of patients, CMV disease responds to treatment with intravenous ganciclovir. Recently, oral valganciclovir was demonstrated to have an efficacy that is comparable to intravenous ganciclovir in treating mild to moderate cases of CMV disease in SOT recipients. Reduction in the degree of immunosuppression should complement antiviral treatment of CMV disease. Although it remains rare, ganciclovir-resistant CMV disease is increasingly seen in clinical practice, potentially fostered by the prolonged use of antivirals in high-risk over-immunosuppressed transplant recipients. Treatment of drug-resistant CMV is currently non-standardized and may include foscarnet, cidofovir, CMV hyperimmune globulins or leflunomide. The investigational drug marivabir had the potential to treat ganciclovir-resistant CMV disease as it acts through a different mechanism. However, the recent phase III clinical trial in allogeneic bone marrow transplant recipients showed that maribavir was not significantly better than placebo for the prevention of CMV disease. Similarly, the preliminary data in a liver transplant population suggests that maribavir was inferior to oral ganciclovir for the prevention of CMV disease. This article reviews the recent data and other developments in the management of CMV infection after SOT.
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