Background: While the most common glomerular lesion associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is collapsing focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) [HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN)], immune complex-mediated forms of glomerulonephritis have been increasingly reported. One form of glomerulonephritis that has been described in the HIV-infected population is immune complex glomerulonephritis with "lupus-like" features, characterized by histologic, immunohistologic, and ultrastructural features resembling lupus nephritis, but occurring in patients without evidence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Data regarding clinical outcomes in patients with this form of glomerulonephritis are very limited.
Methods: We reviewed pathology reports for all native renal biopsy specimens from HIV-positive patients processed at our center from January 1999 through December 2003. Of 77 total specimens, 14 met the following criteria for lupus-like glomerulonephritis: (1) immunofluorescence microscopy showed granular glomerular staining for IgG, IgA, IgM, C3 and C1q, with > or=1+ (0 to 4+ scale) staining for C1q; and (2) the patient's serum was negative for antinuclear antibodies (ANA), or weakly positive (titer < or =1:80) for ANA and negative for antidouble-stranded DNA.
Results: Clinically, ten of the 14 patients with lupus-like glomerulonephritis presented with nephrotic syndrome, all had microscopic hematuria, and nine had serum creatinine >3.0 mg/dL. All but one were African American. Histologically, seven biopsies showed diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis, six focal proliferative glomerulonephritis, and one membranous nephropathy. All but two biopsies showed moderate or severe chronic change, and three showed concurrent HIVAN. Ten of the 14 patients developed end-stage renal disease (ESRD) within 1 year of the biopsy. Nine of these ten patients presented with proteinuria >5.0 g/24 hours and nephrotic syndrome, while three of four patients who did not develop ESRD had proteinuria < or =3.0 g/24 hours.
Conclusion: Lupus-like glomerulonephritis, defined by immunohistologic features and absence of serologic evidence of SLE, is not an uncommon form of glomerular disease in HIV-infected patients undergoing a renal biopsy. Renal outcomes in these patients were poor, although this may be due largely to most patients presenting with advanced disease.