We investigated immune reconstitution against human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in 57 hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipients, aged 1 to 24 years, through a novel method combining T-cell stimulation by HCMV-infected autologous dendritic cells with simultaneous cytometric quantification of HCMV-specific, IFNγ-producing CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Lymphoproliferative response (LPR) to HCMV antigens was also determined. Patients were stratified into 2 groups according to HCMV serostatus, comprising 39 HCMV-seropositive (R+) and 18 HCMV-seronegative (R-) patients who received a transplant from a seropositive donor. Recovery of both HCMV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell immunity occurred in all 39 R+ patients within 6 months and in 6 (33%) of 18 R- patients within 12 months. In R+ patients, the median numbers of HCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells were significantly higher than those of healthy controls, starting from days +60 and +180, respectively. In R- patients, the median numbers of HCMV-specific T cells were consistently lower than in R+ patients. LPR was delayed compared with reconstitution of IFNγ-producing T cells. Patients with delayed specific immune reconstitution experienced recurrent episodes of HCMV infection. HCMV seropositivity of young HSCT recipients is the major factor responsible for HCMV-specific immune reconstitution, irrespective of donor serostatus, and measurement of HCMV-specific T cells appears useful for correct management of HCMV infection.
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