Polyomavirus allograft nephropathy: sequential assessment of histologic viral load, tubulitis, and graft function following changes in immunosuppression

Am J Transplant. 2003 Nov;3(11):1378-82. doi: 10.1046/j.1600-6135.2003.00238.x.


Our initial cases of polyoma virus allograft nephropathy (PVAN) received pulse steroids due to anxiety about concomitant acute rejection triggered by the presence of tubulitis. However, our current policy is to reduce immunosuppression in all cases. The aim of this study was to determine whether clinical follow-up in these patient categories shows any differences in: (a) histologic viral load, (b) grade of tubulitis, and (c) graft function. Reduced viral load assessed within 8 weeks was seen in 4/20 (20.0%) biopsies treated initially by increased immunosuppression, compared to 15/19 (83.3%) biopsies treated with reduced immunosuppression (p = 0.001, Fisher's exact test). Yet, >70% reversal of the rise in serum creatinine occurred in only 3/19 (15.8%) and 1/19 (5.3%) patients, respectively, in these two groups. Improved tubulitis was seen in 11/20 (55%) of biopsies treated with steroids, despite the lack of beneficial effect on serum creatinine in 12/19 (63.1%) instances. In biopsies not treated with any change in immunosuppression, the serum creatinine remained stable in 1/5 (20%) and worsened in 4/5 (80%) biopsies. These data demonstrate that in biopsies with PVAN and tubulitis, reduced immunosuppression is more effective in lowering viral load than steroid therapy. Lack of parallelism between viral load, tubulitis grade, and serum creatinine illustrates a complex interplay of viral and alloimmune factors leading to graft injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Female
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy
  • Kidney Transplantation / methods*
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephritis / therapy
  • Nephritis / virology*
  • Polyomavirus / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Creatinine