Neutralizing Antibody-Mediated Response and Risk of BK Virus-Associated Nephropathy

BK virus–associated nephropathy (BKVAN) causes renal allograft dysfunction. The current management of BKVAN relies on pre-emptive adaptation of immunosuppression according to viral load monitoring. However, this empiric strategy is not always successful. Therefore, pretransplant predictive markers are needed. In a prospective longitudinal study, we enrolled 168 kidney transplant recipients and 69 matched donors. To assess the value of BKV genotype–specific neutralizing antibody (NAb) titers as a predictive marker for BKV replication, we measured BKV DNA load and NAb titers at transplant and followed patients for 24 months. After transplant, 52 (31%) patients displayed BKV replication: 24 (46%) patients were viruric and 28 (54%) patients were viremic, including 13 with biopsy-confirmed BKVAN. At any time, patients with high NAb titers against the replicating strain had a lower risk of developing BKV viremia (hazard ratio [HR], 0.44; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.26 to 0.73; P=0.002). Each log10 increase in NAb titer decreased the risk of developing viremia by 56%. Replicating strains were consistent with donor transmission in 95% of cases of early BKV replication. Genotype mismatch between recipients’ neutralization profiles before transplant and their subsequently replicating strain significantly increased the risk of developing viremia (HR, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.06 to 4.88; P=0.04). A NAb titer against the donor’s strain <4 log10 before transplant significantly associated with BKV replication after transplant (HR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.06 to 3.45; P=0.03). BKV genotype–specific NAb titers may be a meaningful predictive marker that allows patient stratification by BKV disease risk before and after transplant.