Haemorrhagic cystitis (HC) is a distinct clinical disorder of multiple aetiologies. It is characterized by painful haematuria due to haemorrhagic inflammation of the urinary bladder mucosa. In allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), HC occurring before engraftment is mostly transient and self-limiting, whereas that after engraftment is severe and sometimes life-threatening. Pre- and post-engraftment HC represent distinct disorders with different aetiologies and treatment implications. Recent data suggest that reactivation of the polyoma BK virus (BKV) plays a pivotal role in post-engraftment HC. Urotoxicity of the conditioning regimen and alloimmune reaction accompanying graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) upon engraftment are also important pathogenetic factors. Based on data from BKV studies, we propose that HC may be divided into three phases. In the first phase, the conditioning regimen damages uroepithelial cells, providing a milieu for BKV replication. In the second phase, unchecked uroepithelial BKV replication leads to BK viruria. In the last phase after engraftment, alloimmunity against BKV-infected uroepithelial cells leads to HC. The quinolone antibiotics suppress BKV replication in vivo and in vitro, suggesting that their prophylactic use may prevent the occurrence of HC.
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