Forty eight renal transplant recipients were investigated prospectively for evidence of infection with the polyomaviruses BK and JC and cytomegalovirus. An active polyomavirus infection was shown in 31 patients (65%) and cytomegalovirus in 30 (62.5%). Half of the BK and JC virus infections occurred within the first three months after transplantation compared with 93% of the cytomegalovirus infections. Very late polyomavirus infections two or more years after the transplant were also shown. Cytology was useful in identifying polyomavirus but not cytomegalovirus infections, and 21 (68%) of the 31 polyomavirus infected patients excreted inclusion-bearing cells. Only three patients had symptoms possibly associated with the polyomavirus infection. One patient with BK virus infection developed ureteric stenosis and a second patient had malaise and vomiting. One patient with JC virus infection developed pericarditis and effusion. Renal function became impaired at the time of the polyomavius infection in eight patients (26%) and ureteric obstruction and pericarditis developed in two patients treated with methyl prednisolone for possible rejection. At the end of the study 25 of the 31 polyomavirus infected patients (81%) had functioning renal grafts. The detection of polyomavirus infection is important as increased immunosuppression needs to be avoided to prevent possible complications such as ureteric stenosis in transplant recipients.
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