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Transplantation. 2009 Mar 15;87(5):621-30. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e318197c17d.

The decade of polyomavirus BK-associated nephropathy: state of affairs.

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Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


In the last 10 years, better immunosuppression drugs have decreased the rates of acute rejection in kidney transplantation but have also led to the emergence of polyomavirus-associated nephropathy (PVAN). This occurs in 1% to 10% of patients with kidney transplantion and is caused by BK virus in more than 95% of cases. Less than 5% of cases are attributed to the JC virus. Initially, lack of recognition or late diagnosis of PVAN resulted in rapid loss of graft function in more than 50% of patients. In recent years, it has become clear that early diagnosis and timely reduction in immunosuppression is the only proven measure, which significantly affects the outcome of PVAN. Diverse interventions have been explored including the adjunctive use of cidofovir, leflunomide, fluoroquinolones, and intravenous immunoglobulins. Allograft histology is needed to definitively establish the diagnosis of PVAN, but is of limited sensitivity in the early stage of disease. Well-established techniques and protocols for systematic screening by urine cytology and quantitative molecular-genetic techniques allow now for timely intervention before irreversible parenchymal changes occur. Moreover, preemptive reduction in immunosuppression is most effective in presumptive PVAN as defined by surrogate markers (i.e., high BK virus viremia). In this setting, preservation of graft function can be considered the rule. Nevertheless, the recovery of BK virus-specific T-cell immunity may require prolonged periods during which cytopathic damage may continue to accumulate. Despite remarkable progress in the field, important challenges remain, such as the rare patient with PVAN refractory to any intervention and the newly recognized association of PVAN with urogenital tumors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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