West Nile Virus Linked to Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease rates high after West Nile virus infection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Just one prick from a tiny mosquito can infect you with West Nile virus. This infection can cause fever, muscle pain, diarrhea and various other symptoms. Apparently, it may also damage your kidneys.

West Nile virus infection may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.

"Get screened for kidney disease if you've had West Nile virus."

Research has shown that animals can develop kidney infection after becoming infected with West Nile virus.

Kristy O. Murray, DVM, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine, and colleagues set out to study kidney outcomes in humans after they had been infected with West Nile virus.

Out of 139 participants, 40 percent (about 56 patients) had evidence of kidney disease after being infected with West Nile virus. Of these, 10 percent (about 6 patients) had Stage III or higher kidney disease, while 30 percent (about 17 patients) had Stage I or II kidney disease.

The stages of kidney disease are measured using glomerular filtration rate, or GFR - a measure of the kidney's function. The higher the GFR, the lower the stage of kidney disease. For example, a GFR of more than 90 is Stage I - a stage in which there is slight kidney damage with a normal filtration rate.

Stage V kidney disease, on the other hand, indicates total kidney failure with a GFR of less than 15. Patients in this stage require dialysis.

Dr. Murray and colleagues also found that 26 percent (about 36 patients) of participants had proteinuria - a sign of kidney damage in which there is too much protein in the urine. Hematuria, or blood in the urine, was found in 23 percent (about 32 patients) of participants.

According to the authors, their findings suggest a high rate of kidney disease among those previously infected with West Nile virus. The majority of these patients were in the early stages of kidney disease.

Since normal risk factors were not responsible for kidney disease in these patients, the authors recommended that doctors screen patients with a history of West Nile virus for kidney disease.

The research was funded by the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The study was published July 6 in the journal PLoS One.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 16, 2012
Last Updated:
January 17, 2013