Background. It has long been suggested that cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease plays a role in the pathogenesis of chronic rejection (CR). However, its role has been difficult to prove, given the strong association between acute rejection and CMV, and the even stronger association between acute rejection and CR. To try to isolate the relative contribution of CMV infection in the pathogenesis of CR, we used multivariate techniques to examine risk factors for CR, including CMV disease. Methods. Our study population consisted of adult recipients of a first kidney graft who underwent transplantation at a single center between 1/1/85 and 6/30/97 (n=1339). Results. Multivariate analysis using time to CR as the dependent variable demonstrated acute rejection to be the strongest risk factor (relative risk [RR] = 17.8, P=0.0001), followed by older donor age (RR=1.46, P=0.01). The presence of CMV disease showed a trend toward increased risk for CR (RR=1.30, P=0.10), although the association was not as strong as with the other two variables. Comparing only those recipients with acute rejection and CMV disease versus those with acute rejection but no CMV disease, the relative risk of developing CR was 1.37 times higher in the former group. Recipients with acute rejection and CMV developed CR sooner and with a higher incidence versus those with acute rejection but no CMV (P=0.002). It is interesting, however, that CMV disease was only a risk factor for CR in the presence of acute rejection. Recipients with no acute rejection and CMV disease did not have a higher incidence of CR versus those with no acute rejection and no CMV (P=NS). Conclusion. CMV disease seems to play some role in the pathogenesis of CR but only in the presence of acute rejection. Reasons may include (i) the inability to adequately treat acute rejection due to the presence of CMV disease or (ii) the increased virulence of latent CMV virus in recipients being treated for acute rejection. Our data may suggest a role for more aggressive prophylaxis against CMV disease, especially at the time of treatment for acute rejection.