Duration of immunity to diphtheria and tetanus in young kidney transplant patients


Dr Luciana Ghio, Unit of Pediatric Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation, Department of Pediatrics, Clinica Pediatrica G. e D. De Marchi, via Commenda 9, 20122 Milano, Italy
Tel.: + 39 02 57992471
Fax: + 39 02 57992451


Abstract: A considerable proportion of patients with renal transplant, evaluated many years after transplant, lack protective diphtheria antibody levels, despite primary immunization, but maintain immunity to tetanus. These patients respond to a diphtheria and tetanus booster but the duration of the response is uncertain. This study was undertaken to assess if protective antibodies evoked by primary immunization are lost quickly after transplantation, and whether the extent of the immune response to a booster influences the persistence of protective antibodies. We studied 15 patients (group 1) immediately after renal transplant and 35 patients with renal transplant for 6 ± 4 yr who received a diphtheria and tetanus booster (group 2). Six patients (40%) of the first group lost protective diphtheria antibodies a median time of 6.5 months after transplant. Thirty-three patients of the second group responded to the booster with normal diphtheria antibody titers (> 1 IU/mL) in 22 cases and with low titers in 11. Four of the latter lacked immunity to diphtheria at 12 months follow-up. All patients with normal immunity maintained protective levels of diphtheria antibodies. The low responders had a creatinine clearance of 50 ± 20 mL/min/1.73 m2. Tetanus immunity was maintained in almost all patients of both groups. In conclusion, renal transplant patients had an accelerated loss of diphtheria antibodies in the early post-transplant period. Response to a diphtheria booster identified a group at particular risk, namely the low responders, who may require frequent booster doses. This group had significantly poorer renal function than the normal responders.