Reactivation of BK Polyomavirus in Urine Cytology Is Not Associated with Urothelial Cell Carcinoma

Faisal Klufah*, Ghalib Mobaraki, Axel zur Hausen, Iryna Samarska*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BK polyomavirus (BKPyV) has been associated with some high-grade and special urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC) subtypes in immunosuppressed patients. Here, we evaluated the relationship of BKPyV-positive urine cytology specimens (UCS) with UCC. A large single-institution database was retrospectively searched for UCS positive for decoy cells, suggesting BKPyV infection. These were tested for the presence of BKPyV by PCR and immunohistochemistry (IHC) in urine sediments and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples of UCC. Decoy cells were reported in 30 patients out of the database with 22.867 UCS. Of these 30 patients, 16 (53.3%) had no history of UCC. Six patients out of these 16 had a history of transplantation, 4 had a history of severe chronic medical conditions, and 6 had no chronic disease. The other fourteen patients were diagnosed with either in situ or invasive UCC of the urinary bladder (14/30; 46.6%) prior to the detection of decoy cells in the urine. Nine of these UCC patients received intravesical treatment (BCG or mitomycin) after the first presentation with UCC. However, the clinical data on the treatment of the other five UCC patients was lacking. IHC identified BKPyV-positivity in the urine samples of non-UCC and UCC patients, while no BKPyV positivity was found in FFPE tissues of primary UCCs and metastases. In addition, BKPyV-PCR results revealed the presence of BKPyV DNA in the urine of the UCC cases, yet none in the UCC tissues itself. These data strongly indicate that BKPyV reactivation is not restricted to immunosuppression. It can be found in UCS of the immunocompetent patients and may be related to the intravesical BCG or mitomycin treatment of the UCC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1412
Number of pages11
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • BKPyV
  • small DNA viruses
  • bladder cancer
  • cancer
  • polyomavirus
  • tumorigenesis
  • decoy cells


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