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Australian researchers develop life saving blood test

A simple blood test has been developed to help doctors monitor a person’s risk of contracting cytomegalovirus (CMV) – a virus that causes complications, often leading to death, in transplant recipients.

The test, QuantiFERON-CMV (QF-CMV), has been jointly developed by scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) and a Melbourne-based diagnostic company, Cellestis Limited with the assistance of an AusIndustry Biotechnology Innovation Fund (BIF) grant.

According to the Director of QIMR’s Australian Centre for Vaccine Development, Dr Rajiv Khanna, “This is the first commercially available test of its kind. Currently, patients recovering from a transplant face the fear of becoming infected with CMV and doctors are forces to administer a highly toxic drug as a preventative.”

“In many cases, the patient would have been able to fight the infection on their own and the drugs are administered unnecessarily. The concern is not only the toxic effect on the patient, but also the risk of developing drug resistance.”

“This diagnostic can be applied to any type of transplant patient and can be used routinely to monitor the patients’ susceptibility to CMV infection. This will guide doctors in the treatment and prevention of CMV and ultimately improve the outcome of patients post-transplant. ”

Dr Khanna is delighted to see a successful outcome of collaboration between QIMR and Cellestis Limited. “We have been working together over many years to develop this novel blood test. It is very exciting to see the fruits of our hard work saving lives.”

The test is readily available in Europe and will be available in Australia in the coming months. The product has been developed and marketed by Cellestis Limited.

Guidelines published last week in the journal Transplantation reinforce the use of the test.

Cellestis Limited

Cellestis Limited, a listed Australian biotechnology company founded in 2000 in Melbourne, Australia, develops and manufactures the QuantiFERON-CMV test, a breakthrough blood test for monitoring cytomegalovirus infection and disease, and the QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT®) test for tuberculosis infection. Using its patented QuantiFERON technology, Cellestis develops diagnostics tests that measure immune function for diseases with an unmet medical need.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

CMV is a virus that infects between 50% and 85% of adults worldwide and is a member of the herpes virus family, which includes the viruses that cause chicken pox and infectious mononucleosis.

CMV is the most important infectious cause of post-transplant illness and death, affecting approximately half of all transplant recipients. 10 to 50% of these patients can develop symptomatic CMV disease, which is usually a result of immunosuppressive therapies taken to prevent organ rejection. The risk of CMV infection and disease is dependent on the CMV status of both donor and recipient. Not surprisingly, CMV leads to increased resource utilisation and total transplantation program cost.


QF-CMV, a simple blood test, to measure a person’s CD8+ T cell immune response to CMV. It is the only standardised, commercially-available immune monitoring assay, specific for CMV.

Studies now highlight that monitoring a patient’s level of immunity to CMV using QF-CMV could help guide the optimal duration of costly CMV preventative therapy in high-risk patients.

QF-CMV is a major advance in the management of CMV disease risk in transplant recipients. In this setting, QF-CMV is particularly useful for:
• Predicting the likelihood of CMV disease in high risk populations.
• Guiding the clinical and therapeutic management of high-risk patients.
• Decreasing the incidence of late-onset CMV disease and associated healthcare costs.