Polyomavirus BK

Lancet Infect Dis. 2003 Oct;3(10):611-23. doi: 10.1016/s1473-3099(03)00770-9.


Polyomavirus hominis 1, better known as BK virus (BKV), infects up to 90% of the general population. However, significant clinical manifestations are rare and limited to individuals with impaired immune functions. BKV has been associated with diverse entities such as haemorrhagic cystitis, ureteric stenosis, vasculopathy, pneumonitis, encephalitis, retinitis, and even multi-organ failure. In addition, BKV has been implicated in autoimmune disease and possibly cancer. Due to high prevalence and frequent reactivation, the role of BKV in some of these pathologies has been difficult to define. Development of BKV diseases is likely to require complementing determinants in the host, the target organ, and possibly the virus, that are subject to modulators such as immunosuppression. These complex aspects are highlighted in polyomavirus-associated nephropathy (PAN), an emerging disease in renal allograft recipients that may jeopardise the progress in renal transplantation accomplished in the past 10 years. Intervention is difficult due to the lack of specific antivirals and relies mostly on improving immune control. Diagnostic strategies using urine cytology and BKV load measurements in plasma have led to earlier diagnosis of PAN, which increased the success rate of intervention. Case series suggest that cidofovir might be effective, especially when combined with reduced immunosuppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • BK Virus*
  • Cidofovir
  • Cytosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cytosine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Kidney Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Organophosphonates*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Polyomavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / prevention & control*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Organophosphonates
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Cytosine
  • Cidofovir