Cytomegalovirus infection is a frequent and life-threatening complication that significantly limits positive transplantation outcomes. We developed preclinical mouse models of cytomegalovirus reactivation after transplantation and found that humoral immunity is essential for preventing viral recrudescence. Preexisting antiviral antibodies decreased after transplant in the presence of graft-versus-host disease and were not replaced, owing to poor reconstitution of donor B cells and elimination of recipient plasma cells. Viral reactivation was prevented by the transfer of immune serum, without a need to identify and target specific antigenic determinants. Notably, serotherapy afforded complete protection, provided that the serum was matched to the infecting viral strain. Thus, we define the mechanisms for cytomegalovirus reactivation after transplantation and identify a readily translatable strategy of exceptional potency, which avoids the constraints of cellular therapies.