Thursday, August 5, 2010

BK Virus: 8.04

Fighting this damn virus is like herding cats. When one number  is under control, another goes wacky. The strategy set one week is changed the next week as the numbers change. But the core element of the strategy is to prevent further damage to the grafted kidney, so as the kidney is threatened, there is less patience to let a treatment run a slower course.

It was good news/bad news at the clinic this morning. The cell count was down to 45,000, the lowest concentration of virus since it was first discovered. That's the good news. It could mean the reduction in immuno-suppressants is working and allowing the body to fight the virus. The bad news is that the creatinine level jumped to 3.0 after being level the last two visits. That probably means that the virus is scarring the delicate tissue of the kidney and preventing it from doing its job. It could also mean rejection, but there are no other symptoms, such as high temperature, rapid weight gain, pain in the grafted kidney, nausea and vomiting.

So Friday I'll check into the outpatient clinic at 7 am for a long morning of infusions. Two hours of saline provide a cushion for the infusion of Cidofovir, which is an antiviral whose main use to treat the symptoms of cytomegalovirus infection of the eyes in patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). CM Virus is in the same family as BK. By all accounts the drug is pretty nasty stuff. Besides virus fightin' Cidofovir also destroys kidneys  so the treatment is administered in low, carefully monitored dosages every two weeks. How many weeks? If I thought to ask I forgot the answer.

The Cidofovir will be followed up by an infusion of Gamma globulin which will shore up the stores of antibodies to help the body fight the virus. So after 5-6 hours of hanging around on an IV I'll either go to work or go home. (I'm hoping I feel up to going to work.) I go back to the clinic Tuesday to monitor the kidney function.  And find out the next plan of attack.

From all I've read on the Internet, the incidence of BK Virus is a growing problem among renal transplant recipients. No one seems to know why. It is suspected that the main culprit is the increased effectiveness of new, more powerful immuno-suppressant drugs, most notably tacrolimus (Prograf) and myfortic acid (Cell-Cept and Myfortic). But there is still much to be learned. There are no established 'by the book' treatments. Everything is a touch experimental. I mean my situation is that we're using a drug developed to treat a virus that occurs in patients with AIDS that is a nephrotoxin (translation: kidney-poison).

What continues to surprise me is that I had not heard of the virus before I had it. I wrote in earlier blogs some rationale about why my clinic doesn't test for BK Virus, but at this point I have a hard time accepting it. If there is a serum test that can be administered before damage is done to the kidney, it seems it should be done. Once again the emotional logic of the patient runs into the cold logic and established points of view of the medical profession.

BUT.... if I were a new transplant recipient knowing what I know now, I would be asking about BK from day one.

Readers with new transplants, you KNOW who YOU ARE!


  1. My Dad (renal transplant recipient of 9 years) found out that he has an active BK virus infection just recently, google led me to your blog, and I can't tell you how helpful this is!!

  2. Iv'e had y renal transplant for around 7 years. I found out I had the BK virus about 6 month ago. My doctor in NY Presbyterian is lowing the prograf dose hoping it will go away. My creatinine is 2.3 up from 1.9. The think that is annoying me is the doctor really isn't PROACTIVE. Sees to be waiting for the other foot to drop. Currently it at 91k up from 4 k. Not sure what to do now. Thanks for the info.