Severe chronic norovirus diarrheal disease in transplant recipients: Clinical features of an under-recognized syndrome

Robin Avery, Bonnie E. Lonze, Edward Kraus, Kieren Marr, Robert A. Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Norovirus (NV) infection has been reported as a cause of severe chronic diarrhea in transplant recipients, but this entity remains under-recognized in clinical practice, leading to diagnostic delays. Transplant clinicians should become familiar with this syndrome in order to facilitate early detection and management. Methods: Demographic, clinical, and outcomes variables were summarized from a series of transplant recipients with positive stool NV reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays at Johns Hopkins in 2013-2014. Factors associated with longer duration of symptoms were compared using random forest analysis. Results: Thirty-one of 193 (16%) transplant recipients who were tested for NV had positive stool RT-PCRs. Symptoms included diarrhea (100%), nausea/vomiting (58%), abdominal pain (52%), and wasting (35%). Acute kidney injury occurred in 23%, and persisted in 21% after 6 months. Median duration of diarrheal symptoms was 4 months (range, <1-20) and 11/31 (35.4%) patients had relapses after improvement. Wasting, incompatible kidney transplant status, and plasmapheresis were associated with longer diarrhea durations. Treatments included nitazoxanide (in 74%), reduction of immunosuppression (58%), and intravenous immunoglobulin (32%). Six patients died, but no deaths were attributed to NV. Conclusions: It is important for clinicians to recognize that NV can cause severe chronic diarrhea in transplant recipients. In this series, receipt of a human leukocyte antigen- and/or blood type-incompatible kidney transplant, and plasmapheresis were associated with longer symptom duration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12674
JournalTransplant Infectious Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017



  • diarrhea
  • incompatible kidney transplant
  • norovirus
  • viral infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation
  • Infectious Diseases

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