, Volume 64, Issue 24, pp 2763–2792

Viral Prophylaxis in Organ Transplant Patients

Review Article


Viral pathogens have emerged as the most important microbial agents having deleterious effects on solid organ transplant (SOT) recipients. Antiviral chemoprophylaxis involves the administration of medications to abort transmission of, avoid reactivation of, or prevent progression to disease from, active viral infection.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the major microbial pathogen having a negative effect on SOT recipients. CMV causes infectious disease syndromes, augments iatrogenic immunosuppression and is commonly associated with opportunistic superinfection. CMV has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of rejection. Chemoprophylactic regimens for CMV have included oral aciclovir (acyclovir) at medium and high doses, intravenous and oral ganciclovir, and the prodrugs valaciclovir (valacyclovir) and valganciclovir. CMV prophylactic strategies should be stratified, with the highest-risk patients receiving the most ‘potent’ prophylactic regimens.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) reactivation in SOT recipients is more frequent, may become more invasive, takes longer to heal, and has greater potential for dissemination to visceral organs than it does in the immunocompetent host. Prophylactic regimens for CMV are also effective chemoprophylaxis against HSV; in the absence of CMV prophylaxis, aciclovir, valaciclovir or famciclovir should be used as HSV prophylaxis in seropositive recipients.

Primary varicella-zoster virus (VZV) after SOT is rare and most commonly seen in the paediatric transplant population because of VZV epidemiology. Zoster occurs in 5–15% of patients, usually after the sixth post-transplant month. Prophylactic regimens for zoster are neither practical nor cost effective after SOT because of the late onset of disease and low proportion of affected individuals. All SOT recipients should receive VZV immune globulin after contact with either varicella or zoster.

Epstein-Barr virus has its most significant effect in SOT as the precipitating factor in the development of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders. Antiviral agents that could be effective are the same as those used for CMV, but indications for and effectiveness of prophylaxis are poorly established.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are important pathogens in the SOT population as indications for transplantation. So-called ‘prophylaxis’ for recurrent HBV and HCV after liver transplantation is controversial, suppressive rather than preventive, and potentially lifelong.

Influenza infection after SOT is acquired by person-to-person contact. During epidemic periods of influenza, transplant populations experience a relatively high frequency of infection, and influenza may affect immunosuppressed SOT recipients more adversely than immunocompetent individuals. Antiviral medications for prevention of influenza are administered as post-exposure prophylaxis to SOT recipients, in addition to yearly vaccine, in circumstances such as influenza epidemics and nosocomial outbreaks, and after exposure to a symptomatic individual during ‘flu season’.


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Copyright information

© Adis data information BV 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle Slifkin
    • 1
  • Shira Doron
    • 1
  • David R. Snydman
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Infectious DiseasesTufts-New England Medical CenterBostonUSA
  2. 2.BostonUSA

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