A Case of Membranous Nephropathy Hypothesized to be Associated With COVID-19 Vaccine

Cureus. 2022 Apr 18;14(4):e24245. doi: 10.7759/cureus.24245. eCollection 2022 Apr.


A 56-year-old male patient with a medical history of essential hypertension was referred to the emergency room after he was found to have a serum creatinine level of 13 mg/dL at his primary care physician's office. The patient reported that he had developed a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-like infection six months prior that was not confirmed. Two months later, he started to notice dyspnea on exertion and bilateral lower limb swelling and was started on furosemide. He received the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine a month before the presentation but did not receive the second dose. Subsequently, his lower limb swelling and exertional dyspnea started worsening. He denied any new medication, dysuria, oliguria, hematuria, fever, or any other symptoms. Initial evaluation was consistent with kidney failure. Hypocalcemia and hyperphosphatemia were noted, along with medical renal disease on renal ultrasound. Eosinophils and nephrotic-range proteinuria were found in the urine. His serum phospholipase A2 receptor (PLA2R) antibodies were positive. A renal biopsy showed membranous glomerulonephritis with moderate segmental sclerosis, as well as tubulointerstitial fibrosis with neutrophils, consistent with acute interstitial nephritis. Positive staining for PLA2R in the glomerular deposits suggested primary membranous nephropathy (MN). He was treated with prednisone first, and when the kidney biopsy was conclusive for membranous glomerulopathy, he was started on rituximab. On admission, he received hemodialysis intermittently, but this was stopped a month after discharge as his renal function normalized. Recently, there have been numerous cases reported with new onset of glomerular disease after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Further studies of vaccinated patients are needed to determine whether the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 virus vaccination is associated with a higher risk of MN and to identify potential predisposing factors and mechanisms of kidney injury in patients in whom it occurs.

Keywords: covid-19 vaccine; formaldehyde; interstitial nephritis; membranous glomerulonephritis; pla2r.

Publication types

  • Case Reports