Clearance of BK Virus Nephropathy by Combination Antiviral Therapy With Intravenous Immunoglobulin

Transplant Direct. 2017 Mar 10;3(4):e142. doi: 10.1097/TXD.0000000000000641. eCollection 2017 Apr.


Background: Reactivation of BK polyoma virus causes a destructive virus allograft nephropathy (BKVAN) with graft loss in 46%. Treatment options are limited to reduced immunosuppression and largely ineffective antiviral agents. Some studies suggest benefit from intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).

Methods: We evaluated effectiveness of adjuvant IVIG to eliminate virus from blood and tissue, in a retrospective, single-center cohort study, against standard-of-care controls. Both groups underwent reduced immunosuppression; conversion of tacrolimus to cyclosporine; and mycophenolate to leflunomide, oral ciprofloxacin, and intravenous cidofovir.

Results: Biopsy-proven BKVAN occurred in 50 kidneys at 7 (median interquartile range, 3-12) months after transplantation, predominantly as histological stage B (92%), diagnosed following by dysfunction in 46%, screening viremia in 20%, and protocol biopsy in 34%. After treatment, mean viral loads fell from 1581 ± 4220 × 103 copies at diagnosis to 1434 ± 70 639 midtreatment, and 0.138 ± 0.331 after 3 months (P < 0.001). IVIG at 1.01 ± 0.18 g/kg was given to 22 (44%) patients. The IVIG group more effectively cleared viremia (hazard ratio, 3.68; 95% confidence interval, 1.56-8.68; P = 0.003) and BK immunohistochemistry from repeated tissue sampling (hazard ratio, 2.24; 95% confidence interval, 1.09-4.58; P = 0.028), and resulted in faster (11.3 ± 10.4 months vs 29.1 ± 31.8 months, P = 0.015) and more complete resolution of viremia (33.3% vs 77.3%, P = 0.044). Numerically, fewer graft losses occurred with IVIG (27.3% vs 53.6% for control, P = 0.06), although graft and patient survivals were not statistically different. Acute renal dysfunction requiring pulse corticosteroid was common (59.1% vs 78.6%, P = 0.09), respectively, after immunosuppression reduction.

Conclusions: Combination treatment incorporating adjuvant IVIG was more effective eliminating virus from BKVAN, compared with conventional therapy. Validation by multicenter randomized trial is needed.