Test Catalog

Test ID: QBKU    
BK Virus, Molecular Detection, Quantitative, PCR, Urine

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

A prospective and diagnostic marker for the development of BK virus nephropathy in renal transplant recipients


This test should not be used to screen healthy patients. Depending on the population, varying percentages of patients may be found to be positive.

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Polyomaviruses are small (45 nm, approximately 5,000 bp), DNA-containing viruses and include 3 closely related viruses of clinical significance; SV-40, JC virus (JCV) and BK virus (BKV). SV-40 naturally infects rhesus monkeys but can infect humans, while BKV and JCV cause productive infection only in humans.(1-2) Acquisition of BKV begins in infancy. Serological evidence of infection by BKV is present in 37% of individuals by 5 years of age and over 80% of adolescents.


BKV is an important cause of interstitial nephritis and associated nephropathy (BKVAN) in recipients of kidney transplants. Up to 5% of renal allograft recipients can be affected, and among those patients the average time from transplant to diagnosis is about 40 weeks (range 6-150).(3) PCR analysis of BKV DNA in the plasma is the most widely used blood test for the laboratory diagnosis of BKV-associated nephropathy. Importantly, the presence of BKV DNA in blood reflects the dynamics of the disease: the conversion of plasma from negative to positive for BKV DNA after transplantation, the presence of DNA in plasma in conjunction with the persistence of nephropathy, and its disappearance from plasma after the reduction of immunosuppressive therapy.(4-8) However, BKV DNA is typically detectable in urine prior to plasma and may serve as an indication of impending BKVAN. Viral loads of greater than 32,000 IU/mL in urine may also indicate a risk for BKVAN. Serial monitoring of viral loads may be indicated to assess changing levels of BKV DNA.

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

None Detected

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

Increasing copy levels of BK virus (BKV) DNA in serial specimens may indicate possible BKV-associated nephropathy (BKVAN) in kidney transplant patients.


Viral loads of above 32,000 IU/mL in urine may also indicate a risk for BKVAN.


This assay does not cross react with other polyomaviruses, including JC virus and SV-40.

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

No significant cautionary statements

Supportive Data

The following validation supports the use of this assay for clinical testing.


Accuracy/Diagnostic Sensitivity and Specificity:

Results from this real-time PCR assay on the LightCycler (LC PCR) were compared to a previous PCR assay (directed to VP2 region of the polyoma virus based on a published method) on 112 plasma specimens and 108 urine specimens. Using the previous method as the gold standard, the diagnostic sensitivity and specificity is 94% and 90% for plasma and 100% and 100% for urine, respectively. The discrepant specimens had low viral DNA copy numbers (<5,000 copies/mL) which is associated with greater variability of quantitative results.


Supplemental Data (Spiking Studies):

To supplement the above data, 30 negative plasma and urine specimens were spiked with BK virus (BKV)-positive control plasmid at the approximate limit of detection (LoD). The 30-spiked specimens were run in a blinded manner along with 57 plasma and 58 urine negative (nonspiked) specimens. The spiked specimens were 100% positive and 100% of the nonspiked specimens were negative.


Analytical Sensitivity/LoD:

The LoD of this assay is 244 DNA target copies per mL in urine and plasma (78 IU/mL).


Analytical Specificity:

No PCR signal was obtained from the extracts of a variety of human viruses that can be found in urine or plasma, including cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, human herpesvirus-6, enterovirus, adenovirus, and mumps virus.



Qualitative inter-assay and intra-assay precision were 100%. Quantitative values had a standard deviation of <0.25 log10 across the analytical measuring range.


Reference Range:

The reference range of BKV in plasma is "None Detected."


Reportable Range:

Reportable range is from 1,600 to 16,000,000 IU/mL. Acceptable linearity is observed between these values.

Clinical Reference Recommendations for in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. Kazory A, Ducloux D: Renal transplantation and polyomavirus infection: recent clinical facts and controversies. Transplant Infect Dis 2003;5(2):65

2. Vilchez RA, Arrington AS, Butel JS: Polyomaviruses in kidney transplant recipients. Am J Transplantation 2002;2(5):481

3. Hirsch HH: Polyomavirus BK Nephropathy: A (Re-)emerging complication in renal transplantation. Am J Transplantation 2002;2(1):25-30

4. Randhawa PS, Demetris AJ: Nephropathy due to polyomavirus type BK. N Engl J Med 2000;342:1361-1363

5. Volker NT, Klimkait IF, Binet P, et al: Testing for polyomavirus type BK DNA in plasma to identify renal-allograft recipients with viral nephropathy. N Engl J Med 2000;342:1309-1315

6. Hariharan S: BK virus nephritis after renal transplantation. Kidney Int 2006;69:655-662

7. Blanckaert K, De Vriese AS: Current recommendations for diagnosis and management of polyoma BK virus nephropathy in renal transplant recipients. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2006;21(12):3364-3367

8. Viscount HB, Eid AJ, Espy MJ, et al: Polyomavirus polymerase chain reaction as a surrogate marker of polyomavirus-associated nephropathy. Transplantation 2007;84(3):340-345