This study compared culture, including the shell vial procedure, with serology, including IgM cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody testing, for the diagnosis of CMV infection in 42 subjects undergoing cadaveric renal or liver transplantation. Of 35 subjects who developed active CMV infection, 31 had positive cultures, while IgM CMV antibodies were detected in 29. Subjects with symptomatic CMV infection were more likely than asymptomatic subjects to have positive cultures of leukocytes (17/18 vs. 9/17, P =.01).In contrast, symptomatic and asymptomatic subjects did not differ in their IgG or IgM CMV antibody test responses. In subjects with symptomatic infection, viral shedding typically began early in the course of infection, often preceding symptoms, while the serologic response usually followed the appearance of symptoms. With the use of the shell vial procedure to facilitate detection of positive cultures, symptomatic CMV infections following kidney or liver transplantation can be recognized earlier and more reliably using viral culture than by serologic testing.