Postinfectious Glomerulonephritis

How to Cite This Chapter: Singh B, Miller M, Gangji A, Klinger M, Dziemianko I, Kazimierczak K, Drabczyk R. Postinfectious Glomerulonephritis. McMaster Textbook of Internal Medicine. Kraków: Medycyna Praktyczna. Accessed July 15, 2024.
Last Updated: February 28, 2022
Last Reviewed: February 28, 2022
Chapter Information

Definition, Etiology, PathogenesisTop

Postinfectious glomerulonephritis (PIGN) is a rapidly developing glomerular disease with circulating immune complexes associated with an ongoing or a recent infection. Classically, it is related to streptococcal infections and develops several weeks after infection. PIGN can also occur with other bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal, and helminthic pathogens.

Clinical FeaturesTop

PIGN previously affected mostly children, and it is still more common in this group in developing countries. However, the incidence has decreased in the developed world, likely reflecting the quicker and more widespread use of antibiotics, such that PIGN is now significantly more common in adults and preferentially affects the elderly as well as patients with diabetes mellitus or alcoholism.

When the pathogen is a streptococcus, the disease develops acutely, usually 1 to 2 weeks after streptococcal pharyngitis or 2 to 3 weeks after streptococcal skin infections. PIGN caused by a staphylococcus can more commonly present with a concurrent infection with hematuria, proteinuria, rising creatinine, edema, or all of these.

The usual presentation is nephritic syndrome, with most patients having edema (85% of individuals), hypertension (60%-80%), and abnormal urinalysis/microscopy results (microscopic hematuria and red blood cell casts). Proteinuria is usually not in the nephrotic range. Systemic symptoms include malaise, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. While acute kidney injury (AKI) usually exists, it does not commonly progress to the need for renal replacement. Patients can also be asymptomatic; such cases are estimated to be 4 to 5 times more common than symptomatic ones.


1. Urinalysis/microscopy: Non–nephrotic range proteinuria and active urine sediment.

2. Blood tests: Increased antistreptolysin O (ASO) titers are observed in 90% of patients after streptococcal throat infections and in up to 80% of patients after streptococcal skin infections. There is no specific blood test to identify staphylococcal infections except that an inciting staphylococcal infection can be identified from a positive blood culture result. Patients commonly have hypocomplementemia, usually low C3 levels with low or normal C4 levels.

3. Kidney biopsy: Biopsy is not usually done and only considered in patients who do not recover renal function or have an abnormal presentation.


Treatment of active infection with antibiotics is necessary if infection is present. Treatment of nephritic syndrome includes sodium and fluid restriction and loop diuretics as necessary. Hypertension should be controlled. Renin-angiotensin system blockers should be used with caution in the setting of AKI. Glucocorticoids can be considered in the setting of PIGN presenting as RPGN, although observational data suggest that they do not change outcomes and potentially increase risk, especially if there is an ongoing infection.Evidence 1Weak recommendation (downsides likely outweigh benefits, but the balance is close or uncertain; an alternative course of action may be better for some patients). Low Quality of Evidence (low confidence that we know true effects of the intervention). Quality of Evidence lowered due to the observational nature of data. Nasr SH, Markowitz GS, Stokes MB, Said SM, Valeri AM, D'Agati VD. Acute postinfectious glomerulonephritis in the modern era: experience with 86 adults and review of the literature. Medicine (Baltimore). 2008 Jan;87(1):21-32. doi: 10.1097/md.0b013e318161b0fc. PMID: 18204367.


The vast majority of children have complete recovery of their renal function, whereas up to 70% of adults will develop chronic kidney disease, with patients with diabetes being at greater risk of this complication. Recurrences of PIGN are rare.

We would love to hear from you

Comments, mistakes, suggestions?

We use cookies to ensure you get the best browsing experience on our website. Refer to our Cookies Information and Privacy Policy for more details.