Absolute lymphocyte count: A predictor of recurrent cytomegalovirus disease in solid organ transplant recipients

Bradley J. Gardiner, Natalie E. Nierenberg, Jennifer K. Chow, Robin Ruthazer, David M. Kent, David R. Snydman

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Background Recurrent cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in solid organ transplant recipients frequently occurs despite effective antiviral therapy. We previously demonstrated that patients with lymphopenia before liver transplantation are more likely to develop posttransplant infectious complications including CMV. The aim of this study was to explore absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) as a predictor of relapse following treatment for CMV disease. Methods We performed a retrospective cohort study of heart, liver, and kidney transplant recipients treated for an episode of CMV disease. Our primary outcome was time to relapse of CMV within 6 months. Data on potential predictors of relapse including ALC were collected at the time of CMV treatment completion. Univariate and multivariate hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated with a Cox model. Multiple imputation was used to complete the data. Results Relapse occurred in 33 of 170 participants (19.4%). Mean ALC in relapse-free patients was 1.08 ± 0.69 vs 0.73 ± 0.42 × 10 3 cells/μL in those who relapsed, corresponding to an unadjusted hazard ratio of 1.11 (95% confidence interval, 1.03-1.21; P =.009, n = 133) for every decrease of 100 cells/μL. After adjusting for potential confounders, the association between ALC and relapse remained significant (HR, 1.11 [1.03-1.20]; P =.009). Conclusions Low ALC at the time of CMV treatment completion was a strong independent predictor for recurrent CMV disease. This finding is biologically plausible given the known importance of T-cell immunity in maintaining CMV latency. Future studies should consider this inexpensive, readily available marker of host immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1395-1402
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • lymphocyte count
  • lymphopenia
  • recurrent cytomegalovirus disease
  • transplant

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