Primary membranous glomerulonephritis with negative serum PLA2R in haemophilia A successfully managed with rituximab - case report and review of the literature

BMC Nephrol. 2021 Jul 22;22(1):268. doi: 10.1186/s12882-021-02475-y.


Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cause a wide range of glomerular pathologies. In people with haemophilia, transfusion-associated infections with these viruses are common and definitive pathological diagnosis in this population is complicated by the difficulty of safely obtaining a renal biopsy. Membranous nephropathy (MN) is a common cause of adult onset nephrotic syndrome occurring in both primary and secondary forms. Primary MN is associated with podocyte autoantibodies, predominantly against phospholipase A2 receptor (PLA2R). Secondary disease is often associated with viral infection; however, infrequently with HIV or HCV. Distinguishing these entities from each other and other viral glomerular disease is vital as treatment strategies are disparate.

Case presentation: We present the case of a 48-year-old man with moderate haemophilia A and well-controlled transfusion-associated HCV and HIV coinfection who presented with sudden onset nephrotic range proteinuria. Renal biopsy demonstrated grade two membranous nephropathy with associated negative serum PLA2R testing. Light and electron microscopic appearances were indeterminant of a primary or secondary cause. Given his extremely stable co-morbidities, treatment with rituximab and subsequent angiotensin receptor blockade was initiated for suspected primary MN and the patient had sustained resolution in proteinuria over the following 18 months. Subsequent testing demonstrated PLA2R positive glomerular immunohistochemistry despite multiple negative serum results.

Conclusions: Pursuing histological diagnosis is important in complex cases of MN as the treatment strategies between primary and secondary vary significantly. Serum PLA2R testing alone may be insufficient in the presence of multiple potential causes of secondary MN.

Keywords: Glomerulonephritis; Haemophilia; Membranous nephropathy; PLA2R; Rituximab.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous* / diagnosis
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous* / drug therapy
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous* / etiology
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous* / physiopathology
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / etiology
  • Hemophilia A / therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic* / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunologic Factors / administration & dosage
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteinuria / etiology
  • Proteinuria / therapy
  • Receptors, Phospholipase A2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Phospholipase A2 / metabolism
  • Rituximab / administration & dosage*
  • Transfusion Reaction / complications
  • Transfusion Reaction / diagnosis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Immunologic Factors
  • PLA2R1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Phospholipase A2
  • Rituximab