Nocardiosis in renal transplant patients

J Investig Med. 2022 Jan;70(1):36-45. doi: 10.1136/jim-2021-001783. Epub 2021 Aug 23.


Renal transplant patients are immunosuppressed and are at increased risk of opportunistic infections, including Nocardia infection. In renal transplant patients, information on the incidence and risk factors associated with nocardiosis is limited. To address the incidence and risk factors associated with nocardiosis in a large renal transplant population, we used the US Renal Data System (USRDS). Sequelae of allograft failure or rejection after infection were also examined. Demographics, clinical risk factors, Nocardia diagnosis, and allograft failure following Nocardia infection were queried in USRDS renal transplant patients using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes in billing claims and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Form 2728. Generalized linear models were used to determine the risk factors associated with nocardiosis, and Cox proportional hazards models were used to examine the association of risk factors with graft failure among patients with Nocardia infection. Of 203,233 renal transplant recipients identified from 2001 to 2011, 657 (0.32%) were diagnosed with Nocardia infection. Pneumonia was the most frequent presentation (15.2%), followed by brain abscess (8.4%). Numerous factors associated with increased Nocardia infection included age >65 years (OR=2.10, 95% CI 1.71 to 2.59), history of transplant failure (OR=1.28, CI 1.02 to 1.60) or history of rejection (OR=4.83, CI 4.08 to 5.72), receipt of a deceased donor transplant (OR=1.23, CI 1.03 to 1.46), and treatment with basiliximab (OR=1.25, CI 1.00 to 1.55), cyclosporine (OR=1.30, CI 1.03 to 1.65), tacrolimus (OR=2.45, CI 2.00 to 3.00), or thymoglobulin (OR=1.89, CI 1.59 to 2.25). In patients with nocardiosis administration of antithymocyte globulin (HR=2.76), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (HR=2.47), and presentation of Nocardia infection with brain abscess (HR=1.85) were associated with an increased risk of graft failure. This study provides new information to enhance early recognition and targeted treatment of nocardiosis in renal transplant patients.

Keywords: immunosuppression; kidney transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antilymphocyte Serum
  • Basiliximab / therapeutic use
  • Brain Abscess / microbiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nocardia / isolation & purification*
  • Nocardia Infections / diagnosis
  • Nocardia Infections / drug therapy
  • Nocardia Infections / epidemiology*
  • Opportunistic Infections / epidemiology
  • Opportunistic Infections / etiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antilymphocyte Serum
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine
  • Basiliximab
  • thymoglobulin
  • Tacrolimus