Can use of the serum anti-PLA2R antibody negate the need for a renal biopsy in primary membranous nephropathy?

Omar Ragy, Vilma Rautemaa, Alison Smith, Paul Brenchley, Durga Kanigicherla, Patrick Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Since the emergence of the anti-PLA2R antibody (PLA2R-Ab) test, nephrology practice has not changed dramatically, with most nephrologists still relying on a kidney biopsy to diagnose membranous nephropathy. In this study, we examined the clinical accuracy of the anti-PLA2R antibody test using ELISA in routine clinical care.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis of PLA2R-Ab testing in 187 consecutive patients seen at a single UK centre between 2003 and 2020. We compared the kidney biopsy findings with the PLA2R-ab antibody test. Patients' demography, urine protein creatinine ratios, serum albumin, and treatment characteristics including supportive and immunosuppressive treatment were recorded. The clinical accuracy of the test (e.g. sensitivity and specificity, positive [PPV] and negative [NPV] predictive values) was calculated using the kidney biopsy findings as the diagnostic reference.

RESULTS: Mean levels of PLA2R-Ab titre in primary membranous nephropathy were 217RU/ml in comparison to 3RU/ml for both secondary membranous nephropathy and other diagnoses. Most patients with a positive PLA2R-Ab test had a confirmed renal biopsy diagnosis of primary membranous nephropathy with: PPV of 97.3%, sensitivity 75.5%, NPV was 79.8% and specificity was 97.8% at a cut-off threshold of >20 RU/ml.

CONCLUSION: The anti-PLA2R antibody test is a highly specific test for diagnosing membranous nephropathy, and the test has the potential to allow for the diagnosis and treatment in up to 75% of PMN cases without the need for a renal biopsy. Nevertheless, patients with negative PLA2R-Ab tests will still require a biopsy to confirm their diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0281726
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2023


  • Humans
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous/pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Autoantibodies
  • Kidney/pathology
  • Receptors, Phospholipase A2
  • Biopsy


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