An overview of letermovir: a cytomegalovirus prophylactic option

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Introduction: Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) or human herpesvirus 5 (HHV-5) is a β-herpesvirus that causes widespread infection in nearly all members of the human population worldwide. Its persistence in humans after primary infection in a latent phase as well as a partial non–protective immune response is the basis for repeated re-activation/re-infection episodes occurring both in immunocompetent and immunocompromised subjects. In the latter patient populations, which include hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipients, HCMV reactivation episodes may be particularly severe, leading to both systemic and end-organ diseases. Since the 90s, at least four antiviral drugs targeting the DNA polymerase complex have been developed for the prevention and treatment of HCMV infections in transplant recipients, used as first-line (ganciclovir and valganciclovir) and second-line therapy (foscarnet and cidofovir). However, due to their toxicity and drug-resistance induction, new drugs with different targets were needed. Areas covered: In 2017, a new drug named letermovir (LTV), which targets the HCMV DNA terminase complex, was licensed for prophylaxis of HCMV infections in HSCT recipients. This is the focus of this review. Expert opinion: LTV safety and efficacy are promising. However, long-term adverse events and the emergence of drug-resistant HCMV strains must be investigated in extended clinical trials prior to drawing final conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExpert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • adverse events
  • cidofovir
  • drug-resistance
  • foscarnet
  • ganciclovir
  • hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • immunologic monitoring
  • letermovir
  • tenofovir
  • UL51-UL56-UL89-UL104 terminase complex
  • UL54 DNA polymerase
  • UL97 phosphokinase
  • valganciclovir
  • viral load monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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