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Transplantation. 2002 Aug 27;74(4):485-8.

Quantitation of viral DNA in renal allograft tissue from patients with BK virus nephropathy.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.



BK virus (BKV) allograft nephropathy (BKVAN) is a complication in renal transplantation recipients. Histopathology is the gold standard for diagnosis. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for renal biopsy has not been evaluated as a diagnostic test. Determination of renal BKV load may identify patients at risk for disease before histologic nephropathy.


Quantitative PCR assay for BKV DNA was performed in 28 biopsies of patients with BKVAN; 50 biopsies were performed before a diagnosis of BKVAN, and 126 control biopsies were from patients without a history of BKVAN.


BKV DNA was present in 19 of 50 (38%) biopsies performed 1 to 164 weeks before diagnosis of BKVAN. The viral load (mean 216 copies/cell) was lower than in biopsies of patients with BKVAN (mean 6063 viral copies/cell, <0.05). In 10 of 127 (7.8%) control biopsies, a low level of BKV DNA (mean 3.8 copies/cell) was found in three biopsies from chronic allograft nephropathy patients; two biopsies with acute rejection; four biopsies with borderline change; and one biopsy with cytomegalovirus nephritis.


BKV load exceeding 59 copies per cell identified all cases of BKVAN. The diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of quantitative PCR were 100%, 92.1%, 73.6%, and 100%, respectively. Lower levels of BKV DNA were identified in biopsies performed before viral nephropathy development. Future research will determine if earlier recognition of at-risk patients allows application of antiviral strategies to improve graft outcome.

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