COVID-19 associated acute transplant failure after AB0-incompatible living donor kidney transplantation : A case report

Introduction: Immunosuppressive therapy is associated with an increased risk of severe courses of SARS-CoV-2 infection, with frequently delayed viral clearance. We report a case of an acute kidney transplant failure in persistent SARS-CoV-2 infection in a patient with absolute B-cell depletion after administration of rituximab for AB0-incompatible living donor kidney transplantation.

Case presentation: A 34-year-old unvaccinated patient is diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection four months after kidney transplantation. With only mild symptoms and an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of 44 ml/min/1.73 m2, therapy with molnupiravir was initially given. Within the next eight weeks, transplant biopsies were performed for acute graft failure. These showed acute T-cell rejection with severe acute tubular epithelial damage with only mild interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy (BANFF cat. 4 IB), and borderline rejection (BANFF cat. 3). A therapy with prednisolone and intravenous immunoglobulins was performed twice. With unchanged graft failure, the third biopsy also formally showed BANFF cat. 4 IB. However, fluorescence in situ hybridization detected SARS-CoV-2 viruses in large portions of the distal tubules. After nine weeks of persistent COVID-19 disease neither anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG nor a SARS-CoV-2-specific cellular immune response could be detected, leading to the administration of sotrovimab and remdesivir. Among them, SARS-CoV-2 clearance, detection of IgG, and improvement of graft function were achieved.

Conclusion: Lack of viral clearance can lead to complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection with atypical manifestations. In kidney transplant patients, before initiating therapy, the differential diagnoses of “rejection” and “virus infection” should be weighed against each other in an interdisciplinary team of nephrologists, infectious diseases specialists and pathologists.


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