Kidney Transplant Infection and Rejection

What is an Immune System?

Your body’s immune system protects against germs and disease. A healthy immune system fights viruses and bacteria to keep you from getting ill or help you get better. Your body thinks your new kidney does not belong there and will try to fight it like a cold or the flu. After a transplant, your immune system will be lowered because of the powerful drugs you will be taking. These drugs make sure your body does not attack the kidney.

What are my Chances of Infection?
After a transplant, you have an increased chance of:
  • Viral infections, such as CMV, EBV, herpes, and mouth sores
  • Bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections
  • Fungal infections (skin, for example)
  • Wound infection and slow wound healing
  • Mouth sores (not always infection but may need treatment)
  • PTLD, which is a rare complication. It is like a bad case of the Mono virus
  • Surgical complications such as collection of fluid around kidney
It is important to report any signs or symptoms of infection to the transplant team right away.

DO …

  • WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY TO PROTECT YOURSELF. This is the best way to get rid of germs! Anti-bacterial hand gel or soap and water can be used.
  • Get the flu and pneumonia shots.


  • Share towels, cups, toothbrushes or other items in the bathroom.
  • Share food or drink.
  • Spend time around people who are sick.

These things are especially important right after the transplant when your immune system is very low.

What is a Rejection Episode?

A rejection episode is when your body’s immune system thinks the donor kidney is foreign and attempts to harm it. It DOES NOT mean you will lose the new kidney. You will be admitted to the hospital for further testing, since rejection is typically diagnosed by a kidney biopsy.

Signs of a rejection episode include:

  • Your creatinine level will go up. This shows that the kidney is not functioning as well as we want. This may be the only sign of rejection. This is why it is important to get labs regularly.
  • You may get a fever.
  • You may get pain or swelling over your new kidney.
  • You may not urinate as much.
  • You may have a fast weight gain.
  • You may have swelling in your hands, feet and face.