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. steroids) 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, oral transfer factor, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine injection and two kinds of Chinese medicinal herbs (Huangqi granules and TIAOJINING) may help prevent infections in nephrotic children. These studies were methodologically poor. Currently there is no strong evidence for recommending any interventions for preventing infections in nephrotic syndrome. More research is needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

IVIG, thymosin, oral transfer factor, BCG vaccine, Huangqi granules and TIAOJINING may have positive effects on the 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.

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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 intervention for reducing the risk of infection in children and adults with nephrotic syndrome.

Search strategy: 

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 to December 2009), Chinese Science and Technique Journals Database (to December 2009), China National Infrastructure (to December 2009), WangFang database (to December 2009), reference lists of nephrology textbooks, review articles, relevant studies and abstracts from nephrology meetings without language restriction.

Date of last search: 6 February 2012

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 methods, participants, interventions and outcomes (appearance of infection, mortality, quality of life and adverse events). Results were expressed as risk ratios (RR) for dichotomous outcomes or as mean differences (MD) for continuous data with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Main results: 

Twelve studies conducted in China, including 762 children with nephrotic syndrome were identified. No studies were identified in adults. All studies compared one kind of prophylactic pharmacotherapy (intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), thymosin, oral transfer factor, mannan peptide tablet, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine injection, polyvalent bacterial vaccine (Lantigen B) and two kinds of Chinese medicinal herbs: a compound of Chinese medicinal herbs (TIAOJINING) and Huangqi (astragalus) granules) plus baseline treatment with baseline treatment alone. No RCTs were identified comparing antibiotics, non-pharmacological prophylaxis, or pneumococcal vaccination. Four studies showed a significantly beneficial effect of IVIG on preventing nosocomial or unspecified infection in children with nephrotic syndrome (RR 0.47, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.73). Thymosin (RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.26 to 0.97), oral transfer factor (RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.73), BCG vaccine injection (RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.95), Huangqi granules (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.83) and TIAOJINING (RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.81) were also effective in reducing the risk of infection in children with nephrotic syndrome. However mannan peptide tablet (RR 0.46, 95% CI 0.21 to 1.01) and polyvalent bacterial vaccine (RR 0.24, 95% CI 0.06 to1.00) were not superior to baseline treatment in reducing the risk of infection for nephrotic children. No serious adverse events were reported.