OBJECTIVE: Despite the use of immunosuppressive drugs, recurrent and de novo inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can develop after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of IBD. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of CMV infection in the development of IBD after OLT.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: All 84 patients who underwent transplantation for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) or autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) in our center between May 1987 and June 2002 and who survived the first year after transplantation were included in the study. Diagnosis of active CMV infection was made using the pp65-antigenemia assay.
RESULTS: Thirty-one of the 84 patients (37%) had IBD prior to OLT. Eighteen patients (21%) experienced IBD after OLT, either as flare-up (n=12) or de novo (n=6), at a median of 1.4 years (range 0.3 to 6.3) after OLT. Forty-eight percent of all patients experienced CMV infection after OLT, at a median of 27 days (range 8 to 193). CMV infection was primary in half the patients. At 1, 3, and 5 years after OLT, active IBD-free survival without CMV infection was 91, 88, and 88%, respectively. With CMV infection these figures were 93, 82, and 67%. De novo IBD was seen only in those who had experienced a CMV infection (p=0.02).
CONCLUSIONS: In patients transplanted for end-stage PSC or AIH, active IBD, especially de novo IBD, occurred more often in patients who experienced CMV infection in the postoperative period. This finding supports a pathogenic role for CMV in the development of IBD.