Management of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation after allogeneic stem cell transplantation by simultaneous analysis of EBV DNA load and EBV-specific T cell reconstitution

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • NE Annels
  • JS Kalpoe
  • RGM Bredius
  • EC Claas
  • ACM Kroes
  • D van Baarle
  • RM Egeler
  • MJD van Tol
  • AC Lankester

Colleges, School and Institutes


BACKGROUND: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation is a frequent event after allogeneic stem cell transplantation and may progress to life-threatening lymphoproliferative disease (EBV-LPD) in the absence of adequate EBV-specific T cell immunity. Quantification of EBV DNA load in asymptomatic individuals who are at risk is a useful (although not entirely predictive) indicator of progression to EBV-LPD and guide for preemptive treatment with CD20 antibodies. METHODS: With the aim of improving the identification of patients at risk, we retrospectively analyzed, within a cohort of 25 consecutive allogeneic stem cell transplant recipients at risk for EBV-LPD, the pattern of T cell reconstitution during EBV reactivation in all preemptively treated patients (8 patients). RESULTS: In 6 of 8 cases, a significant T cell reconstitution (i.e., a CD3+ T cell count of >300 cells/microL) was documented during EBV reactivation, which included an expansion of EBV-specific memory T cells, as shown by human leukocyte antigen class I tetramer analysis. Additional evidence for the antiviral potential of this T cell reconstitution was obtained prospectively from a cohort of 14 consecutive allogeneic stem cell transplant recipients at risk for EBV-LPD. EBV reactivation occurred in 3 patients. Preemptive treatment was successfully withheld for 2 of these patients in light of concurrent (EBV-specific) T cell recovery. CONCLUSION: We conclude that analysis of the level of (EBV-specific) T cell reconstitution during EBV reactivation is an important second parameter, in addition to quantification of EBV DNA load, that will be instrumental in a more accurate definition of patients at risk for EBV-LPD who, given their immunoincompetence, will be most certainly dependent on preemptive interventions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1743-1748
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2006