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Interventions for preventing infection in nephrotic syndrome

  • Review
  • Intervention




Infection is one of the most common complications and still remains a significant cause of morbidity and occasionally mortality in patients, especially children with nephrotic syndrome. Many different prophylactic interventions have been used or recommended for reducing the risks of infection in nephrotic syndrome in clinical practice. Whether the existing evidence is scientifically rigorous and which prophylactic intervention can be recommended for routine use based on the current evidence is still unknown.


To assess the benefits and harms of any prophylactic interventions for reducing the risk of infection in children and adults with nephrotic syndrome.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Renal Group's Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (in The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE and Pre-MEDLINE (from 1966), EMBASE (from 1980), China Biological Medicine Database (1979 - December 2002), reference lists of nephrology textbooks, review articles, relevant studies and abstracts from nephrology meetings without language restriction.

Selection criteria

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs comparing any prophylactic interventions (pharmacological or non-pharmacological) for preventing any infection in children and adults with nephrotic syndrome.

Data collection and analysis

Two authors independently assessed and extracted information. Information was collected on method, participants, interventions and outcomes ( appearance of infection, mortality, quality of life and adverse events).

Main results

Five RCTs conducted in China, including 308 children with nephrotic syndrome were identified. No studies were identified in adults. All studies compared one kind of prophylactic pharmacotherapy (IVIG, thymosin or a compound of Chinese medicinal herbs - TIAOJINING) in addition to baseline treatment with baseline treatment alone. No RCTs were identified comparing antibiotic or non-pharmacological prophylaxis, or pneumococcal vaccination. Three studies showed a significantly better effect of IVIG on preventing nosocomial or unspecified infection in children with nephrotic syndrome (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.82). Thymosin and TIAOJINING were also effective for reducing the risks of infection in children with nephrotic syndrome with RR 0.50 (95%CI 0.26 to 0.97) and 0.59 (95%CI 0.43 to 0.81) respectively. No serious adverse events were reported.

Authors' conclusions

IVIG, thymosin and TIAOJINING may have positive effects on prevention of nosocomial or unspecified infection with no obvious serious adverse events in children with nephrotic syndrome. However the methodological quality of all studies was poor, the sample sizes small and all studies were from China, and thus there is no strong evidence on the effectiveness of these interventions.

Plain language summary

No strong evidence for any interventions for preventing infection in nephrotic syndrome

Patients with nephrotic syndrome, particularly children, are susceptible to infections. Infections can cause frequent relapses of illness, poor response to therapies (e.g. steroid) and severe infections occasionally lead to death. Oral antibiotics, pneumococcal vaccination, some immunomodulators and Chinese medicinal herbs have been used / recommended for reducing the risk of infection. No studies on antibiotics, pneumococcal vaccination and any other non-drug prophylaxis were identified. This review found that intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), thymosin and a compound of Chinese medicinal herbs (TIAOJINING) may help prevent infections in nephrotic children. These studies were methodologically poor. There is no strong evidence for recommending any interventions for preventing infections in nephrotic syndrome. More research is needed.