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Volume 9, Number 22Space holderJune 3, 2005

UW group studies virus found in kidney transplant patients

UW researchers will soon begin running the first randomized control clinical trial of a drug to treat BK virus nephropathy. The virus is named after the initials of the patient in which it was first discovered. The condition affects between 5 percent and 8 percent of kidney transplant patients, and often causes loss of function in the transplanted kidney.

Ajit Limaye, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and medicine, will lead the trial, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Researchers will study the effectiveness of the antiviral drug cidofovir in treating renal transplant patients who have BK virus nephropathy. Cidofovir is used to treat cytomegalovirus (CMV), a virus that affects AIDS patients and others with suppressed immune systems. Preliminary studies have shown that the drug may also be effective in treating BK virus.

Most people have been exposed to BK virus during childhood, but the virus doesn't manifest itself until the host has a compromised immune system. The use of more potent immunosuppressant drugs in transplant patients has helped reduce organ rejection in recent years. However, some researchers believe those drugs also contribute to a rise in BK Virus infections.

Because cidofovir can cause kidney toxicity as a side effect, researchers plan to use very low doses of the drug. Lower doses may prove to be effective against BK virus.

This summer, Limaye will recruit about 50 patients for the dose-escalation study. Physicians are encouraged to refer patients who have had a kidney transplant and a positive BK virus biopsy test.

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