Epstein�Barr virus reactivation in allogeneic stem cell transplantation is highly related to cytomegalovirus reactivation
Monitoring of Epstein�Barr virus (EBV) load and pre-emptive rituximab is an appropriate approach to prevent post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) occurring after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). This pre-emptive approach, based on EBV-DNA monitoring through a quantitative polymerase chain reaction, was applied to 101 consecutive patients who underwent allo HSCT at our Institute (median age 50). A single infusion of rituximab was administered to 11 of 16 patients who were at high risk for progression to PTLD, defined as a DNA value >10 000 copies/mL. All patients cleared EBV DNAemia, without any recurrences. Main factors significantly associated with high risk for PTLD were as follows: (i) unrelated vs. sibling (26% vs. 7%; p = 0.011); (ii) T-cell depletion (29% vs. 6%; p = 0.001); (iii) graft versus host disease (GVHD; 30% vs. 7%; p = 0.002); and (iv) cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation (29% vs. 4%; p = 0.001). Multivariate analysis showed that CMV reactivation was the only independent variable associated with EBV reactivation. We conclude that: (i) a single infusion of rituximab is able to prevent the risk of progression into EBV-related PTLD; and (ii) CMV reactivation is strongly associated with EBV reactivation; therefore, an intensive EBV monitoring strategy could be advisable only in case of CMV reactivation.