Pathogenesis and treatment of HIV-associated renal diseases: lessons from clinical and animal studies, molecular pathologic correlations, and genetic investigations

Ann Intern Med. 2003 Aug 5;139(3):214-26.


HIV infection is associated with several renal syndromes, including acute renal failure. Chronic renal failure directly linked to HIV infection includes thrombotic microangiopathic renal diseases, immune-mediated glomerulonephritides, and HIV-associated nephropathy. A renal biopsy may be necessary for diagnosis. The development of HIV-associated nephropathy has been definitively linked to renal cellular infection, but the disease affects only a minority of patients, typically men of African descent. Therefore, factors determining disease expression in infected patients must now be emphasized. The pathogenic mechanisms involved in HIV-associated renal disease remain obscure. Genetic factors, as well as renal cellular responses, mediated by HIV proteins (including an immune-activated microenvironment) capable of presenting antigen in susceptible hosts probably explain most cases. HIV-associated nephropathy has a characteristic pathologic phenotype, including glomerular, tubular, and interstitial changes, and ultrastructural findings. Infection of the glomerular epithelial cell, or podocyte, and consequent structural and biochemical changes may be pivotal in pathogenesis. The HIV-1 transgenic mouse is an important model for understanding disease pathogenesis, particularly the role of HIV proteins in mediating renal tissue injury. Rigorously controlled randomized trials have not evaluated treatment, but corticosteroids and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors have been used. Highly active antiretroviral therapy seems to have decreased the incidence of end-stage renal disease related to HIV infection and, in case reports, to have improved renal functional and pathologic outcomes of HIV-associated nephropathy. Outcomes in patients undergoing hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis have improved, and current research focuses on renal transplantation for treatment of HIV-infected patients.

Publication types

  • Congress
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / genetics
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnosis
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy*