What are the treatment options for CMV pneumonia in organ transplant recipients?

Updated: Jul 07, 2021
  • Author: Ricardo Cedeno-Mendoza, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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CMV pneumonia is difficult to treat, even with the antivirals now available. The mortality rate among bone marrow transplant recipients with CMV pneumonia was approximately 85% prior to the introduction of ganciclovir and CMV-specific immune globulin. The addition of these drugs has decreased the CMV pneumonia mortality rate to 15%-75%. The mortality rate of CMV pneumonia in marrow transplants that requires mechanical ventilation is high, despite treatment with ganciclovir and immune globulin. Poor clinical outcomes are also observed in patients who are also infected with community respiratory viruses (eg, parainfluenza, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus) and those who have received allogeneic marrow transplants. This suggests that the severity of CMV pneumonia is not exclusively secondary to viral characteristics.

The use of immune globulin is based on studies of marrow transplant recipients, which noted improved survival rates in those with CMV pneumonia who received combination therapy (ganciclovir plus immune globulin). [44] This has not been studied in patients with CMV pneumonia who have received solid organ transplants. Some experts believe that the mechanism of CMV pneumonia in patients who have received solid organ transplants may differ from that in marrow transplant recipients, making the addition of immune globulin unnecessary in the former. CMV pneumonia in marrow transplant recipients does not appear to involve a simple and direct viral cytopathic effect on pneumocytes. The addition of CMV-specific immune globulin has not been shown to affect the mortality and morbidity of CMV infection of other organ systems.

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