Use of anti-rejection medications lowers body’s natural ability to fight off viruses. In the first year after transplantation the level of suppression of your immune system is the highest and you are at the highest risk of obtaining a new or re-activating a virus you have been exposed to. There are many types of viruses; however, the most common in transplant patients are:
• Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
• BK Virus (BKV) and JC Virus (JCV)
• Hepatitis B and C
The risk of CMV infection is highest in the first months after getting your new transplant. Signs of CMV infection can vary depending on which organ system is affected. Some of the symptoms may include: fatigue, aching joints, high temperature, headaches, diarrhea, heartburn, pneumonia.
Infection with this virus commonly occurs in early childhood, after the infection resolves some virus lingers in the body. BK virus may become active particularly during the first 6 months after transplantation. Your transplant team will be monitoring for BK virus infection. Common site for infection for this virus is the kidney; if the infection goes untreated for a long period of time it can cause damage to your transplanted kidney.
Every transplant recipient is screened for active hepatitis infection or signs of previous exposure. If you have had Hepatitis B or C in the past the transplant team will conduct very in depth screening for presence of hepatitis.
Remember, many medications do NOT mix well with your transplant medications. Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist to check the safety of any new medication before you take it, even anti-viral medications.