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An Antibiotic for a Virus

Posted Jan 12 2012 7:26pm

I’m sure THAT got the attention of all of the doctors, PA’s, NP’s, and RN’s who tirelessly tell people that antibiotics don’t get rid of viruses. But in my case, an antibiotic is being used to suppress a virus.

I’ve been positive for BK virus since July, 2009. The previous April, when they were still testing my level of immune suppression (when the insurance still paid for the Immuno-Know testing), I was overly suppressed, so they cut back my dose of CellCept, and 3 months later, my BK urine was positive for >39 million copies. They stopped my CellCept, and it dropped precipitously, but never cleared. My blood also had BK present as well. I was treated that Fall with Cipro, and it cleared from my blood. My transplant coordinator was not at all aggressive, and let it slip. I eventually was put on Leflunomide, and that brought my levels down even further.

This past Spring, when I had my Prograf toxicity and renal failure, the levels went way up. This was a direct result of the negligence of my Transplant Coordinator, who never told the doc I was put on Fluconazole, which put my Prograf level in toxic range and caused Acute Renal Failure, and thus, the oversuppression of my immune system. So, I “fired” her, and chose a TC who I KNEW was very compulsive, and thus would manage my transplant appropriately. She began addressing the lingering BK, and my Leflunomide was doubled last month to 40 mg daily.

I had my labs done this week, and my BK urine level dropped from 34k copies to 600, and 100 copies in my blood.

So I got a message today to call her, as the Transplant Surgeon wants to start a 2 week course of Cipro again, and also get labs again in 2 weeks, including a “lymphocyte subset”. I don’t know why, but my first thought was “cancer” (a risk of the Prograf, which is used to suppress my immune system and prevent rejection of the kidney I so love). When I spoke with my TC, she explained that this lab will specifically check my CD4 level, and thus give an idea of the level of suppression. Phew……

My problem is that I analyze too much. There is a risk of achilles tendon rupture with Cipro, and I actually know of a case where a patient was on a prolonged course of Cipro, and this happened. (and no, he/she is NOT one of my case management patients) So, I thought about it, and the risk of tendon rupture (and neuropathy, which I already have), is less to me than the risk of losing my kidney to BK virus.

As the field of BK virus is still in it’s infancy, there is no standard treatment, but Cipro (and other quinolone antibiotics) are used successfully; Leflunomide also seems to suppress the virus as well. since this virus is dormant in the urinary tract for life (similar to the chicken pox virus being dormant in nerve tracts for life), I will never get rid of it, but hopefully will be able to suppress it into dormancy.

As for my other labs, that’s a different story. The proverbial black cloud made a visit to me this past week, and among other things, the lab did not collect all of the blood that was ordered. My BUN and creatinine were done, along with my Vitamin D and Lipid panel (all good; creatinine still a 1.1, which is my baseline). They didn’t get a Prograf level, and my BUN/Creatinine were added on after the fact.

As mentioned in my previous post, I started a new job. Same company, but I’m “embedded” now in a Medical Home site, rather than covering for a variety of offices. It’s been tough lately, as we are getting a LOT of new patients, and my caseload is already just about maxed out. I’m working 45-50 hour work weeks; fortunately, I still love my job.


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