Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is the major viral complication in solid organ transplant recipients. Seronegative recipents (R-) of organs from seropositive donors (D+) appear to be at higher risk of developing symptomatic HCMV infection. To what extent systemic life-threatening complications can be risked for non-life-saving transplant procedures? A case report describing successful treatment of repeated episodes of active HCMV infection in a D+R- hand recipient in the absence of HCMV-specific T-cell immunity is presented. In the attempt to save both the patient and the transplanted hand, a preemptive treatment strategy was adopted with the aim to boost the constitution of the virus-specific T-cell immune response and simultaneously avoid onset of disease. Careful monitoring of HCMV load in blood and HCMV-specific T-cell immunity guided administration of repeated courses of antiviral treatment and avoided emergence of HCMV-related symptoms. Following establishment of HCMV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell response, preemptive treatment was no longer required due to sustained HCMV disappearance from blood. The patient is now well, and his hand too. In conclusion, evaluation of virus-specific T-cell immunity is of crucial importance in D+R- transplant recipients and careful monitoring of HCMV-specific T cell mediated response should always parallel monitoring of HCMV load in transplant recipients.
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