Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation

: 2012  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 1035--1037

Distal renal tubular acidosis in a child with HIV infection

Preeti Shanbag, Vaishali More, Jane David 
 Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Department of Pediatrics, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital, Sion, Mumbai, India

Correspondence Address:
Preeti Shanbag
Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Department of Pediatrics, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital, Sion, Mumbai


Renal tubular acidosis (RTA) is not uncommon in HIV-infected children with ad­vanced disease, and has been described mainly due to nephrotoxic anti-retroviral therapy and in association with prophylaxis or treatment of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia with co-trimoxazole. We describe an 8-year-old boy, newly diagnosed to have HIV infection, who presented with distal RTA. There were no features of chronic RTA in the form of rickets or nephrocalcinosis, making an inherited form unlikely.

How to cite this article:
Shanbag P, More V, David J. Distal renal tubular acidosis in a child with HIV infection.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2012;23:1035-1037

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Shanbag P, More V, David J. Distal renal tubular acidosis in a child with HIV infection. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Dec 5 ];23:1035-1037
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Full Text


HIV-associated nephropathy represents a di­sease spectrum that includes mild-to-moderate persistent proteinuria, hematuria, renal tubular acidosis (RTA) and end-stage renal disease. The prevalence varies and is associated with how advanced the immunosuppression is. [1],[2] RTA defects have been reported in HIV pa­tients previously, mainly in the context of nephrotoxic antiretroviral therapy and prophy­lactic co-trimoxazole treatment. [3] Distal RTA has been reported in an adult woman with HIV infection, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and hypergammaglobulinemia. [4] We describe a child with distal RTA primarily due to HIV infection.

 Case Report

An 8-year-old boy was admitted with a his­tory of fever, diarrhea and poor feeding for four days, and breathlessness and altered sensorium for one day. The child had been pas­sing two to three loose stools per day. There was a history of repeated episodes of fever, cough and diarrhea in the past one year. Two months earlier, he had been investigated else­where and diagnosed to have pulmonary tu­berculosis. Accordingly, anti-tuberculous the­rapy with isoniazide, rifampicin and pyrazinamide was started. The mother had died six months earlier of pulmonary tuberculosis and had been diagnosed to be HIV positive, pro­bably following a blood transfusion during pregnancy. The father was HIV negative and he had been counseled to do the HIV testing in this child, but had not yet done it.

At admission in our hospital, the child was drowsy. The pulse was 120/min and peripheral pulses were well felt. Systolic blood pressure was 80 mmHg. The respiratory rate was 44/min. The breathing pattern was deep, suggesting Kussmaul's respiration. The child was dehy­drated and had extensive oral thrush. The pa­tient's weight was 20.5 kg (5 th percentile for age) and height 120 cm (10 th percentile for age). Grade 3 clubbing was present. There was no significant lymph node enlargement and no evidence of rickets or otitis media. Central ner­vous system examination revealed a drowsy arousable child. There was no focal neurolo­gical deficit and no signs of meningeal irrita­tion. Examination of the respiratory system de­tected bilateral coarse crepitations. Abdominal examination showed a liver palpable 2 cm below the costal margin and spleen palpable 2 cm in its long axis from the costal margin. The impression at admission was acute gastroente­ritis with dehydration and acidosis, and bronchopneumonia.

Laboratory investigations revealed a hemo­globin level of 8.5 g/dL and a white cell count of 13,000 WBC/mm 3 with a differential of polymorphs 58%, lymphocytes 32%, monocytes 6% and band forms 4%. The random blood sugar was 115 mg/dL, blood urea nitrogen was 20 mg/dL and serum creatinine 0.8 mg/dL. The arterial blood gases showed a pH of 7.157, pCO 2 16.3 mmHg, pO 2 119.4 mmHg, HCO 3 5.5 mmol/L and SaO 2 of 96.8%. Serum electrolytes revealed a sodium level of 138 mmol/L, potassium of 1.84 mmol/L and chlo­ride of 118 mmol/L. Urinary electrolytes showed a sodium level of 120 mmol/L, potassium of 8.4 mmol/L and chloride of 72 mmol/L. Urine examination showed a pH level of 7.6, trace proteins and WBCs 2-3/hpf. Urinary calcium/ creatinine ratio was <0.2. Total proteins level was 8.8 g/dL, serum albumin of 3.6 g/dL and serum globulin of 5.2 g/dL; liver function tests were otherwise normal. Serum calcium was 8.9 mg/dL, inorganic phosphorus 4.8 mg/dL and alkaline phosphatase 120 U/L. Urinary screening for aminoaciduria and glucose was negative. Cerebrospinal fluid examination was normal. The Mantoux test showed no induration. Chest X-ray revealed patchy opacities in both lung fields with early bronchiectatic changes in both bases. Ultrasonogram of the abdomen revealed retroperitoneal lymph nodes. The kid­neys were normal sized and there was no nephrocalcinosis. Blood, urine and stool cultures were sterile.

The patient's HIV-1 enzyme-linked immuno­sorbent assay was positive with three different kits. His CD4 count was 256/mm 3 and CD4 percentage of 15.9. Hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis C virus antibody were negative.

The patient was rehydrated with intravenous fluids supplemented with potassium chloride. Fluconazole was given to treat the oral candi­diasis. Intravenous cefotaxime and amikacin were also started for the respiratory infection. Despite adequate rehydration and the subsi­ding diarrhea, the child continued to have per­sistent metabolic acidosis, which necessitated correction with intravenous sodium bicarbo­nate. With these measures there was a gradual improvement over the following week. The child required continuing therapy with oral po­tassium and sodium bicarbonate and was dis­charged with these supplements on Day 16 of admission. Antituberculous therapy was conti­nued. Cotrimoxazole prophylaxis was started and the patient referred to the (anti-retroviral therapy (ART) center. At follow-up, one month later, the child gained 1.8 kg, but required potassium and sodium bicarbonate supple­ments to maintain normal serum potassium levels and a normal arterial blood gas profile.


We have described a case of RTA in a patient with HIV infection. The acidosis was hyper-chloremic, with a normal anion gap, and per­sisted despite correction of dehydration, cessa­tion of diarrhea and normal renal function. In distal RTA, there is an inability to excrete hydrogen ions along the distal tubule. Hence, an inability to lower the urine pH to less than 5.5 in the presence of systemic acidosis sug­gests a diagnosis of distal RTA. [5] Measurement of the urinary anion gap (Na + + K+ Cl -) has been suggested for an initial evaluation of hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis; a positive anion gap suggests a decrease in distal urinary acidification. [6] In our patient, the presence of alkaline urine with the presence of severe acidosis and a positive urinary anion gap sugges­ted distal RTA. Moreover, there were no features of a generalized Fanconi syndrome. There was no evidence of chronic RTA, such as rickets or nephrocalcinosis, suggesting that an inherited form of RTA was unlikely. RTA was probably secondary to the HIV infection.

Chakraborty et al found a 9% incidence of distal RTA in HIV-infected children. How­ever, all these children were receiving ART. Many were also receiving co-trimoxazole (TMP) as prophylaxis against Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. The hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis, renal bicarbonate wasting and growth failure was attributed to co-trimoxazole usage in these patients. [3] High doses of co-trimoxazole, as used in the treatment of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in AIDS patients, have the propensity to cause hyperkalemia by inhibiting sodium channels in the distal nephron, thereby impairing potassium secretion. [7],[8] Hyperkalemia has also been observed in HIV-infected patients on standard doses used for prophylaxis. [9] Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus and renal tubular acidosis have been observed in HIV-infected patients, receiving foscarnet as therapy of cytomegalovirus infection. [10] Distal RTA has been described by Laing et al in an adult woman with HIV, AIDS and hyper-gammaglobulinemia. [4] Hyperglobulinemic states are a well-recognized cause of acquired distal RTA. Our patient also had hypergammaglobulinemia. Whether the distal tubular defect seen in our patient was due to the direct cytopathic effect of the virus on the renal tubules or secondary to hypergammaglobulinemia is not clear. Patients presenting with unexplained ac­quired RTA should be tested for HIV infection.


The authors would like to thank Dr. M.E. Yeolekar, Dean, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital, Mumbai, for permitting us to publish this manuscript. [11]


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