BK Virus: Opportunity Makes a Pathogen

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More than 70% of the general population worldwide has serological evidence of exposure to Polyomavirus hominis type 1, better known as BK virus (BKV). BKV infection typically occurs during childhood, without specific symptoms, followed by a state of nonreplicative infection in various tissues, with the urogenital tract as the principal site. Asymptomatic reactivation and low-level replication with viruria is observed in 5% of healthy individuals. Persistent high-level BKV replication is the hallmark of polyomavirus-associated nephropathy in renal transplantation and of hemorrhagic cystitis in bone marrow transplantation. Since these manifestations are rare in other types of immunocompromised patients, the presence of specific cofactors is postulated. The role of BKV in autoimmune disease and cancer is a controversial topic and is difficult to determine, because the pathology no longer depends on BKV replication. This article discusses current views of pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment

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