Clinically-based determination of safe DNAemia cutoff levels for preemptive therapy or human cytomegalovirus infections in solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients

Daniele Lilleri, Fausto Baldanti, Marta Gatti, Francesca Rovida, Luca Dossena, Simona De Grazia, Maria Torsellini, Giuseppe Gerna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Transplantation Centers using human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) antigenemia-based preemptive therapy will need to replace in the near future the antigenemia assay with a more standardized and automatable assay, such as a molecular assay quantifying HCMV DNA in blood (DNAemia). Thus, in view of replacing antigenemia with clinically safe cutoff values, DNAemia levels corresponding to antigenemia cutoffs guiding HCMV preemptive therapy were determined retrospectively in solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients (HSCTR) using an "in-house" quantitative PCR (QPCR) method. Since preemptive therapy had prevented appearance of HCMV disease in all patients tested, DNA cutoffs determined retrospectively had to be considered as safe clinically as antigenemia cutoffs used prospectively. However, in solid organ transplant recipients (SOTR), initiating preemptive therapy upon an antigenemia cutoff of 100 pp65-positive leukocytes, a DNAemia cutoff of 300,000 copies/ml blood had positive and negative predictive values of >90%, indicating that a DNAemia cutoff could achieve, in terms of prevention of HCMV disease, the same clinical results as the antigenemia cutoff. In HSCTR, initiating preemptive therapy upon first antigenemia positivity, a DNAemia cutoff of 10,000 copies/ml blood had a positive predictive value of >90%, indicating that the great majority of patients treated under the antigenemia guidance would have been treated also using this DNA cutoff. On the other hand, the negative predictive value of 28.6% indicated that two out of three HSCTR had been treated under the antigenemia guidance having the same levels of viral DNA as the untreated patients. The data suggest that a quantitative cutoff could be adopted as a guiding criterion for preemptive therapy also in HSCTR. Regression analysis allowed to determine the DNAemia (corresponding to QPCR) cutoff values for two commercial assays tested both in solid organ and HSCTR. Retrospective DNAemia cutoff values will be verified for safety in prospective trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-418
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004



  • Amplicor CMV Monitor
  • Digene Hybrid Capture
  • HCMV antigenemia
  • Negative predictive value
  • Positive predictive value
  • Quantitative PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

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