Human cytomegalovirus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell reconstitution in adult allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients and immune control of viral infection

Daniele Lilleri, Chiara Fornara, Antonella Chiesa, Daniela Caldera, Emilio Paolo Alessandrino, Giuseppe Gerna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Human cytomegalovirus infection is the most frequent viral complication in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. We investigated the development of human cytomegalovirus-specific T cells in adult recipients of hematopoietic stem cell transplants. Design and Methods: From May 2003 through October 2006 a total of 45 patients were monitored for human cytomegalovirus-specific T-cell reconstitution. Human cytomegalovirus-infected autologous dendritic cells were used as a stimulus to detect interferon-γ-producing human cytomegalovirus-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells during the first year after transplantation. Interleukin-2 production by specific T cells was also determined. Results: Human cytomegalovirus infection was detected in the blood of 39/45 patients at a median of 29 days after transplantation. Human cytomegalovirus-specific T-cell reconstitution followed reactivation of latent human cytomegalovirus infection at a median time of about 2 months after transplantation. Only donor human cytomegalovirus-seronegativity and bone marrow as a stem cell source were found to delay specific T-cell reconstitution significantly. Levels of three CD8 + and one CD4+ human cytomegalovirus-specific T-cells/μL blood had a positive predictive value of around 80% for identifying patients able to control human cytomegalovirus infection spontaneously. Five patients who received high doses of steroids for treatment of graft-versus-host disease developed human cytomegalovirus infection requiring pre-emptive treatment despite high levels of interferon-γ-producing T cells in response to human cytomegalovirus. Specific interleukin-2 production was not detected in patients with human cytomegalovirus infection requiring treatment, while 90% of patients who spontaneously controlled human cytomegalovirus infection had T cells that produced interleukin-2 and interferon-γ. Conclusions: Pre-transplant human cytomegalovirus infection of the recipient is a major factor driving human cytomegalovirus-specific immune reconstitution. Control of human cytomegalovirus infection likely requires the presence of both interferon-γ and interleukin-2 producing T cells. Corticosteroid treatment may favor active viral replication even in patients with specific T cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-256
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • Specific T cells
  • Stem cell transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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