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BK virus infection – causes, side effects and treatments at

Friday, January 12, 2018 by

The BK virus rarely causes disease or severe symptoms. Once an individual is infected, it spreads to the kidneys, brain, blood, etc. and settles down, all without disturbing the host’s health. Symptoms of infection from BK virus surface when the immune system of an individual is weakened.

The BK virus, which belongs to the polyomavirus family, was first isolated in 1971. The virus was isolated from the urine of a patient who underwent a renal transplant. His initials were B.K., and the BK virus was named after him.

Transmission of the BK virus from one person to another occurs through fluids like respiratory tract fluids, saliva, and urine. The infection can also spread from a mother to an infant during birth.

Known risks and symptoms of BK virus infection

Symptoms of BV virus often include:

  • Pain or discomfort when urinating (dysuria)
  • Blood/blood clots in urine (hematuria)
  • Feeling like you need to urinate more often than usual
  • Reddish-brown urine
  • Pain or cramping in the abdomen (stomach) area or lower back
  • Weight gain caused by fluid retention
  • Fever, muscle pain, or weakness
  • Difficulty breathing, cold, and cough
  • Vision changes
  • Seizures
  • The presence of renal tubular cells and inflammatory cells (confirmed after urinalysis)

Risk factors for severe BK virus infection may include:

  1. Age – As we age, our immune system weakens, making it susceptible to many infections.
  2. Organ transplant – Patients undergoing organ transplants are given potent immunosuppressive agents so that the new organ is not rejected. This can make the BK virus stronger and a patient may start showing several symptoms.
  3. The Weakening of the immune system – Health conditions such as AIDS and diabetes can make the immune system weaker.

Body systems harmed by BK virus infection

Severe infection caused by BV virus may result in the following symptoms:

  • Kidney disease or damage (nephropathy)
  • Asymptomatic hematuria
  • Hemorrhagic cystitis (sudden onset of hematuria with bladder pain), which is often difficult to treat
  • Urethral stenosis (narrowing of the urethra)
  • Interstitial nephritis (infection of interstitium of the kidney)
  • Pneumonitis and pneumonia due to infection of the lungs
  • In rare cases, brain, liver and eye disease

Food items or nutrients that may prevent BK virus infection

The following foods and nutrients can help prevent BK virus infection:

  • Drink lots of water – If you’ve recently had a kidney transplant, drinking a lot of water can help you recover much faster. Try to drink at least two liters (68 ounces) of water daily.
  • Avoid eating raw or under-cooked foods – Eating raw/under-cooked foods if you have a weakened immune system – such as under-cooked meat or under-cooked eggs – after a transplant may increase the risk of severe intestinal illness.
  • Eat more protein – Barring a handful of special dietary considerations, a well-balanced diet can help prevent BK virus infection. Protein can help build muscle and recover lost weight.
  • Don’t take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) – Some common over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can cause kidney dysfunction.

Treatments, management plans for BK virus infection

Patients may or may not need treatment for the BK virus, and treatment will depend on how severe the symptoms are.

Treatment for BK virus may include:

  • Medication to ease pain/discomfort.
  • Changing or decreasing the dose of antirejection medicine.
  • Anti-viral medicine may be prescribed to lower the amount of BK virus in your body.
  • IV (intravenous) fluids to help detox your bladder.

Where to learn more


BK virus rarely causes disease or severe symptoms. Symptoms of infection from BK virus surface when the immune system of an individual is weakened.

Patients may or may not need treatment for the BK virus, and treatment will depend on how severe the symptoms are.


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