What is the role of qualitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the workup of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection?

Updated: Jul 07, 2021
  • Author: Ricardo Cedeno-Mendoza, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Qualitative PCR is used to detect CMV in blood and tissue samples.

PCR depends on the multiplication of primers specific for a portion of a CMV gene. The primers usually bind to the area of virus that codes for early antigen.

Qualitative PCR is extremely sensitive, but, because CMV DNA can be detected in patients with or without active disease, the clinical utility of qualitative PCR is limited. [50, 51, 52] Serial PCR may be more helpful clinically.

It yields a positive result before the antigenemia test in transplant recipients with viremia.

Results are typically negative in patients without CMV viremia.

In transplant recipients, a negative CMV PCR result goes against reactivation, but not infection. [53]

Commercially available qualitative PCR testing can be performed using the NucliSens CMV Test, a nucleic acid sequence-based amplification assay (NASBA, Organon Teknika Corporation, Durham, North Carolina).

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