Evaluation of the Clinical Utility of Droplet Digital PCR for Human Cytomegalovirus.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of clinical microbiology (2014)


2014, Center-Authored Paper, June 2014, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division


Human Cytomegalovirus (CMV) has historically been the major infectious cause of morbidity and mortality among patients receiving hematopoietic cell or organ transplant. Standard care in a transplant setting involves frequent monitoring of CMV viral load over weeks to months to determine when anti-viral treatment may be required. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) is the standard molecular diagnostic method for monitoring. Recently, digital PCR (dPCR) has shown promise in viral diagnostics, although current dPCR systems have lower throughput than qPCR systems. Here we compare qPCR and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) for CMV detection in patient plasma samples. Droplet digital PCR exhibits increased precision over qPCR at viral loads ≥ 4 log 10 with equivalent sensitivity. However, retrospective analysis of longitudinal samples from transplant patients with CMV viral loads near therapeutic thresholds did not provide evidence that the improved precision of ddPCR would be of clinical benefit. Given the throughput advantages of current qPCR systems, a widespread switch to dPCR for CMV monitoring would appear premature.