Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in the period of temporary immunodeficiency after haematoablative treatment and bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is associated with a risk of graft failure and multiple-organ CMV disease. The efficacy of immune system reconstitution is decisive for the prevention of CMV pathogenesis after BMT. Previous data in murine model systems have documented a redundancy in the immune effector mechanisms controlling CMV. CD8 T cells proved to be relevant but not irreplaceable as antiviral effectors. Specifically, in a state of long-term in vivo depletion of the CD8 T-cell subset, CD4 T cells were educed to become deputy effectors controlling CMV by a mechanism involving antiviral cytokines. It is of medical importance to know whether one can trust in this 'flexible defence' in all clinical settings. It is demonstrated here that reconstitution of CD8 T cells is crucial for the prevention of fatal multiple-organ CMV disease under the specific conditions of BMT.


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