Background: Asymptomatic polyoma virus infection documented by urine cytology or serology is well known, but the clinical course of biopsy-proven interstitial nephritis is not well defined.
Methods: Twenty-two cases were identified by histology, immunostaining, in situ hybridization, electron microscopy, or polymerase chain reaction.
Results: The clinical features mimicked acute rejection (n=19), chronic rejection with incidental diagnosis at nephrectomy (n=2), or drug toxicity (n=1). Histology showed homogenous intranuclear inclusions. In situ hybridization showed BK virus (BKV) to be the predominant species, but polymerase chain reaction documented JC virus co-infection in one of five cases so tested. Electron microscopy in seven cases showed 20-51-nm virions. The two cases diagnosed at nephrectomy received no therapy. Initial antirejection therapy in 12 cases led to clearance of the virus in 1/12 (8%), partial therapeutic response in 3/12 (25%), and graft loss in 8/12 (67%) cases. The last recorded creatinine in patients with functional grafts ranged from 1.9 to 7.0 (median: 4.5) mg/dl, 0.4-45 (median: 4.0) months after initial diagnosis. The remaining eight cases treated by reduction of immunosuppression at the outset have been free of graft loss for 0.2-10.0 (median: 4.8) months since diagnosis, and clearance of virus has been documented in three of six (50%) cases. The serum creatinine in these patients is 1.7-6.0 (median: 2.4) mg/dl, 0.2-10 (median: 4.8) months after diagnosis. Follow-up biopsies performed 1-23.5 months after diagnosis show chronic allograft nephropathy.
Conclusions: Polyoma virus tubulo-interstitial nephritis-associated graft dysfunction usually calls for judicious decrease in immunosuppression and monitoring for acute rejection. Development of methods to serially quantify the viral load in individual patients could potentially improve clinical outcome.