Hepatitis C cured in patients who received infected kidneys, researchers report

Twenty patients at Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine were cured of hepatitis C after receiving kidney transplants from deceased donors who had the infection, a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found.

The kidney transplants for the 20 patients are working just as well as kidneys transplanted from donors without hepatitis C, suggesting the infection did not harm transplant quality, the researchers say.  

Penn Medicine launched a clinical trial in 2016 to test how transplanting kidneys from donors with hepatitis C affected patients on the kidney transplant waitlist who do not have the virus. These patients would choose to receive these otherwise unused organs. Recipients then received an antiviral therapy to treat the virus after transplantation.

The trial included 12-month hepatitis C treatment outcomes in 10 patients and six-month outcomes in 10 other patients. All the patients received a lifesaving kidney transplant, were cured of their contracted hepatitis C and reported good quality of life after their transplants.

"This study, and the results, are good news for those in need of a transplant, particularly those patients who were facing tremendous wait times — often five, seven, even 10 years — and who were spending so much of their daily lives on dialysis," said researcher Peter Reese, MD. "While larger, longer term studies are important to confirm these results, we can confidently say that hospitals nationwide could perform hundreds or thousands more transplants if we increased our acceptance of organs from donors with hepatitis C."

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