Introduction: The introduction of COVID-19 vaccination programs has become an integral part of the major strategy to reduce COVID-19 numbers worldwide. New-onset and relapsed kidney histopathology have been reported following COVID-19 vaccination, sparking debate on whether there are causal associations. How these vaccines achieve an immune response to COVID-19 and the mechanism that this triggers kidney pathology remains unestablished. We describe the results of a systematic review for new-onset and relapsed kidney histopathology following COVID-19 vaccination.
Methods: A systematic literature search of published data up until 31 August 2021 was completed through the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta Analyses (PRISMA) guideline. Research articles reporting new onset or relapsed kidney histopathology in adult patients (>18 years) following COVID-19 vaccination were included for qualitative review. Only full-text articles published in the English language were selected for review.
Results: Forty-eight cases from thirty-six articles were included in the qualitative synthesis of this systematic review. Minimal change disease (19 cases) was the most frequent pathology observed, followed by IgA nephropathy (14 cases) and vasculitis (10 cases). Other cases include relapse of membranous nephropathy, acute rejection of kidney transplant, relapse of IgG4 nephritis, new-onset renal thrombotic microangiopathy, and scleroderma renal crisis following COVID-19 vaccination. There was no mortality reported in any of the included cases. Patients in all but one case largely recovered and did not require long-term renal replacement therapy.
Conclusion: This systematic review provides insight into the relationship between various kidney pathologies that may have followed COVID-19 vaccination. Despite these reported cases, the protective benefits offered by COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh its risks. It would be recommended to consider early biopsy to identify histopathology amongst patients presenting with symptoms relating to new-onset kidney disease following vaccination and to monitor symptoms for those with potential relapsed disease.
Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 vaccination; SARS-CoV-2; histopathology; kidney disease; new-onset; relapse; systematic review.