Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Université de Montréal

Graft-versus-host disease

When the transplant attacks the donor’s cells

Two types of immune response are possible in the case of an allogeneic transplant: rejection and the graft-versus-host (GVH) reaction.

Graft-versus-host disease occurs when certain kinds of white blood cells, the lymphocytes, contained within the transplant attack the recipient’s tissues, which the former perceive as being foreign. In a phenomenon that is the inverse of rejection, the recipient’s body, which is in a state of immune deficiency, cannot respond to such an attack.

Acute graft-versus-host disease is seen in around 30% to 50% of allogeneic transplants among immediate family members and in 50% to 80% of such transplants not involving siblings.

Acute GVH disease

This disease usually occurs with the first 100 days following the transplant. Symptoms include:

Chronic GVH disease

It generally occurs after the 100-day period following the transplant. Its onset is indicated to varying degrees by a wide spectrum of symptoms that can differ from one patient to another: