Transmission of viral hepatitis by kidney transplantation: donor evaluation and transplant policies (Part 1: hepatitis B virus)


Brian J. G. Pereira, MD, MBA, President and Chief  Executive Officer, New England Health Care  Foundation, 750 Washington Street, Box #5224 Boston, MA 02111 USA
Tel: +1 617 636 5224
Fax: +1 617 636 7119


Abstract: This two-part article discusses serologic testing of prospective donors for viral hepatitis B and C as part of the comprehensive donor evaluation and reviews of the current policies and practices aimed at preventing donor-to-recipient transmission of hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV, HBC). This second part of the review discusses HCV. Organs procured from HCV-infected donors can transmit the virus to their recipients. Because a number of studies have associated infections with HCV with increased morbidity and mortality among renal transplant recipients, it is important to prevent HCV transmission with renal transplantation. The majority of organ procurement organizations (OPOs) perform routine screening of organ donors for antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV). The prevalence of HCV infection among cadaver organ donors, ascertained based on a positive anti-HCV test by ELISA2, varies worldwide between 1.08% and 11.8%. The use of kidneys from donors negative for anti-HCV by ELISA2 carries negligible or no risk of transmitting HCV infection. The use of organs from anti-HCV-positive donors has been restricted to life-saving transplants (heart, liver or lung) by the majority of OPOs worldwide. However, discarding kidneys from all anti-HCV positive donors would lead to unnecessary waste of organs because not all anti-HCV positive donors are infectious. Recently, the policy of unconditional restriction on the use of kidneys from anti-HCV positive donors has been challenged, and transplantation of organs from anti-HCV-positive donors into anti-HCV-positive recipients has been found to be safe. An even better alternative might be a policy of transplanting kidneys from anti-HCV-positive donors only in HCV RNA-positive recipients. However, until more data become available, these two strategies remain experimental treatments.