Transplantation of hepatitis B surface antigen–positive livers into hepatitis B virus–positive recipients and the role of hepatitis delta coinfection


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The scarcity of liver donors requires consideration of grafts from sources not previously used. Allografts from hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-carriers without a significant liver disease have been proposed for liver transplant recipients with hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Combination prophylaxis schemes against HBV post-liver transplantation (LT) recurrence are currently available; the efficacy of those schemes in HBV-related cirrhosis and HCC must be assessed. This report describes the allocation of HBsAg-positive grafts in three HBsAg-positive recipients, with HBV-related cirrhosis and evolving HCC lesions, two of them with hepatitis Delta virus (HDV) coinfection. Patients were administered anti-hepatitis B immunoglobulins (HBIGs) and lamivudine in order to prevent HBV recurrence. In spite of anti-HBV prophylaxis, HBV infection did persist after LT in all patients (no serum clearance of HBsAg). HBV replication assessed by serum HBV deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) presence was detected in the first month after LT in the 3 recipients. A prompt HDV reinfection with a clinical and histological pattern of hepatitis was observed in the 2 HBV / HDV coinfected recipients. In 1 of them, an evolving chronic hepatitis required a second LT. The non-HDV–infected patient showed an uneventful follow-up, but the lack of the neutralizing effect of HBIGs and the high risk of escape mutants forced the addition of adefovir-dipivoxil to lamivudine, in order to prevent viral variants and hepatitis recurrence. In conclusion, allografts from HBsAg-positive donors in HBsAg-positive recipients are associated with the persistence of the HBsAg after LT due to the failure of HBIG prophylaxis, even if lamivudine does inhibit virion production. This condition favors HDV replication and HDV hepatitis recurrence in coinfected patients. The allocation of HBsAg-positive grafts in HBsAg-positive recipients could be justified only in recipients without HDV coinfection and a combined prophylaxis with lamivudine and adefovir-dipivoxil is currently the best way to manage escape mutants in these recipients. (Liver Transpl 2005;11:922–928.)