Variability in assessing for BK viremia: whole blood is not reliable and plasma is not above reproach – a retrospective analysis

Neerja Agrawal, Ignacio A. Echenique, Shane M. Meehan, Ajit P. Limaye, Linda Cook, Anthony Chang, Robert C. Harland, Basit Javaid, Pradeep V. Kadambi, Scott Matushek, James Williams, Michelle A. Josephson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Polyomavirus nephropathy (PVN) is a major complication of kidney transplantation. Most reports describe polyomavirus viremia either precedes or is detectable at the time of diagnosis of PVN. This association is the basis of current screening recommendations. We retrospectively reviewed the PCR results of blood and urine samples from 29 kidney transplant recipients with biopsy-proven PVN. Biopsies were performed for a rise in serum creatinine or persistent high-level BK viruria. All biopsies showed polyoma virus large T-antigen expression in tubular epithelium using immunohistochemistry. All had viruria preceding or at the time of biopsy (range, 5.2 × 104 to >25 × 106 BKV DNA copies/ml). Twenty (69%) had viremia ranging from 2.5 × 103 to 4.3 × 106 copies/ml at the time of the biopsy. Via blood BK PCR assay, nine (31%) had no BK viremia detected either preceding or at the time of the biopsy. In five recipients where sufficient specimen permitted, additional plasma BK assessment revealed positive detection of viremia. A comparative analysis of assays from two centres was performed with spiked samples. BK DNA may not be detected in the blood of some kidney transplant recipients with histologically confirmed PVN. This may reflect limitation of whole blood as opposed to plasma-based BK DNA assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-678
Number of pages9
JournalTransplant International
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • BK virus
  • kidney transplant
  • polyoma
  • viremia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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