Background: The incidence of herpes zoster (HZ) infection in liver transplant recipients prior to the use of induction therapy with monoclonal antibodies has been reported as being 1.2-18%. We studied the occurrence of HZ in liver transplant recipients that received induction therapy with alemtuzumab (Campath 1H®). Material and methods: This was a retrospective review of primary liver transplant recipients who received alemtuzumab as induction therapy at our center. HZ infection was diagnosed clinically as the presence of a characteristic vesicular rash in a dermatomal distribution without any further virological confirmation. Results: A total of 118 liver transplant recipients were treated with alemtuzumab between August 2002 and August 2005. Twelve patients developed HZ infection, and the cumulative probability of a patient developing HZ infection by 36 months post-transplant ± 1SE was estimated as 16.5 ± 5.0%. The median time for onset of the infection was 10.2 months (range 4.7-30.7) after the transplant. All patients had only one dermatomal distribution, and none developed systemic infection or complications such as postherpetic neuropathy. All patients except one were treated with systemic intravenous acyclovir. One patient received famciclovir. All of the patients had received ganciclovir during the post-transplant period but were not receiving any other antiviral medication at the time of the infection. Conclusion: Herpes zoster infection has previously been reported as a frequent complication of liver transplantation. Our study suggests that it occurs in approximately 16% of patients receiving induction therapy with alemtuzumab. Although alemtuzumab is a powerful immunosuppressive agent and there is still little information regarding its long-term safety when used in liver transplantation, our data do not suggest any increase in the occurrence and complications of HZ.
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