Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is an important pathogen after renal transplantation. In the present study, we examined the prevalence, clinical presentation and outcome of VZV infections in renal transplant recipients. Charts and medical records of adult renal allotransplant recipients were investigated to find patients with VZV infection. From December 1972 until July 2010, 1,139 patients received kidney allograft at our institution. VZV infection was diagnosed in 40 patients (3.51%). 28 patients (70%) had intensified immunosuppression prior to VZV infection occurrence. Median time of onset was 2.13 years after transplantation (range 9 days to 19.2 years). 35 patients developed VZV during the first post-transplant year (median 0.61 years). Four patients developed VZV infection more than 12 years after transplantation. 33 patients (82.5%) had dermatomal distribution, 5 (12.5%) disseminated herpes zoster (HZ), and 2 patients (5%) who were VZV IgG-negative before transplantation, developed chickenpox. Immunosuppression was reduced and patients received acyclovir. Cutaneous scarring was recorded in 7 cases (17.5%). Two patients developed post-herpetic neuralgia, which was accompanied by scarring and skin depigmentation in 1 of them. Five patients (12.5%) experienced relapse of HZ. Timely initiation of therapy may prevent development of complications and the visceral form of disease. Based on our experience with development of chickenpox, we suggest active immunization for all seronegative patients before organ transplantation.

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