Naturally occurring antibodies may be treatment for BK nephropathy in kidney transplant patients

A viral infection known as BK that commonly causes kidney transplant dysfunction in patients taking high doses of immunosuppressants may be treated with naturally occurring antibodies that already are widely available, according to UPMC-led research that was presented this week at the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco.

The BK virus infects most healthy children in the U.S., but the infection is usually asymptomatic and readily cleared by the immune system. However, following natural infection, latent virus persists in the kidneys for an indefinite time because antibodies in the plasma and circulating T-cells remain at levels that are high enough to prevent virus reactivation.

"However, if the immune system is suppressed—for example by medications designed to prevent rejection of the organ—viral infection flares up and damages the kidney. This causes a condition called BK virus nephropathy," said Parmjeet Randhawa, M.D., a UPMC pathologist and professor of transplant pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the research. "Currently, there are no anti-viral drugs or vaccines specifically designed for BK nephropathy, and none is likely to be licensed for at least the next 10 years."

Dr. Randhawa and his team found that anti-BK antibodies are present at very high levels in immunoglobulin preparations currently being used to treat other , as well as immunologic disorders such as antibody mediated rejection of transplanted organs. These antibodies interact with a BK virus surface protein called VP-1 and effectively neutralize the virus. Such neutralized viruses can no longer infect human cells.

"By artificially constructing viruses varying in the composition of the proteins on their surface, we have shown that this neutralizing action is effective against all six common BK virus strains circulating in human populations," Dr. Randhawa said. "These findings open the way to conduct clinical trials for preventing and treating BK nephropathy in ."

As the proposed immunoglobulin preparations are natural products derived from healthy human subjects, associated side effects are expected to be minimal, Dr. Randhawa said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Designer T cells fight viruses after transplants

Jun 25, 2014

Bone marrow transplants save thousands of lives but patients are vulnerable to severe viral infections in the months afterward, until their new immune system kicks in. Now scientists are developing protection ...

Scientists decode world's most complex human virus

Jun 12, 2014

Cytomegalovirus – or CMV - is the most complex virus known to man. Most people will in their lives become infected by CMV and, because it is a herpes virus, infection lasts a lifetime. CMV can cause severe ...

Common virus may cause anemia in patients with kidney disease

Apr 10, 2014

A virus that is present in most people in a latent state may induce or exacerbate anemia in patients with kidney disease, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) ...

Recommended for you

Ebola expert calls for European anti-virus 'corps'

Dec 26, 2014

Europe will be "vulnerable" if it does not regard viruses as a "national security issue" like the United States, the microbiologist who discovered Ebola said in an interview published Friday.

In Liberia, Ebola steals Christmas

Dec 26, 2014

The Ebola epidemic has cast a dark shadow over Christmas this year in Liberia, where small businesses are especially feeling the pinch.

Firm recalls caramel apples amid listeria fears

Dec 25, 2014

A Missouri firm is recalling its Happy Apple brand caramel apples because of the potential that they could be contaminated with listeria. The recall comes after at least three deaths and at least 29 illnesses in 10 states ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.