Plasma Lead Concentration and Risk of Late Kidney Allograft Failure: Findings From the TransplantLines Biobank and Cohort Studies

Camilo G. Sotomayor*, Flavia Giubergia, TransplantLines Investigators, Dion Groothof, Catterina Ferreccio, Ilja M. Nolte, Gerjan J. Navis, António W. Gomes-Neto, Daan Kremer, Tim J. Knobbe, Michele F. Eisenga, Ramón Rodrigo, Daan J. Touw, Stephan J.L. Bakker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale & Objective: 

Heavy metals are known to induce kidney damage, and recent studies have linked minor exposures to cadmium and arsenic with increased risk of kidney allograft failure, yet the potential association of lead with late graft failure in kidney transplant recipients (KTRs) remains unknown. 

Study Design: 

Prospective cohort study in The Netherlands. 

Setting & Participants: 

We studied outpatient KTRs (n = 670) with a functioning graft for ≥1 year recruited at a university setting (2008-2011) and followed for a median of 4.9 (interquartile range, 3.4-5.5) years. Additionally, patients with chronic kidney disease (n = 46) enrolled in the ongoing TransplantLines Cohort and Biobank Study (2016-2017, identifier NCT03272841) were studied at admission for transplant and at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after transplant. 


Plasma lead concentration was log2-transformed to estimate the association with outcomes per doubling of plasma lead concentration and also considered categorically as tertiles of lead distribution. 


Kidney graft failure (restart of dialysis or repeat transplant) with the competing event of death with a functioning graft. 

Analytical Approach: 

Multivariable-adjusted cause-specific hazards models in which follow-up of KTRs who died with a functioning graft was censored. 


Median baseline plasma lead concentration was 0.31 (interquartile range, 0.22-0.45) μg/L among all KTRs. During follow-up, 78 (12%) KTRs experienced graft failure. Higher plasma lead concentration was associated with increased risk of graft failure (hazard ratio, 1.59 [95% CI, 1.14-2.21] per doubling; P = 0.006) independent of age, sex, transplant characteristics, estimated glomerular filtration rate, proteinuria, smoking status, alcohol intake, and plasma concentrations of cadmium and arsenic. These findings remained materially unchanged after additional adjustment for dietary intake and were consistent with those of analyses examining lead categorically. In serial measurements, plasma lead concentration was significantly higher at admission for transplant than at 3 months after transplant (P = 0.001), after which it remained stable over 2 years of follow-up (P = 0.2). 


Observational study design. 


Pretransplant plasma lead concentrations, which decrease after transplant, are associated with increased risk of late kidney allograft failure. These findings warrant further studies to evaluate whether preventive or therapeutic interventions to decrease plasma lead concentration may represent novel risk-management strategies to decrease the rate of kidney allograft failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-97.e1
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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