Transplanting kidneys from patients with hepatitis C could be SAFE

Transplanting kidneys from patients with hepatitis C could be SAFE: Trial finds 53 people stayed free of infection after receiving the donated organs

  • Currently, people with hep-C cannot donate kidneys unless recipient is infected 
  • But American scientists say process is safe after trial of 53 patients in Memphis
  • The participants all stayed free of hepatitis C infection after the procedure 

People infected with hepatitis C may be able to donate their kidney without the risk of infection spreading, a study has suggested. 

Hepatitis C is spreads through the bloodstream, therefore those infected are not allowed to donate blood or organs. 

Currently, hepatitis C kidneys can only be transferred to patients already infected with the virus.

But American scientists now say the process is safe after successfully transplanting 53 infected kidneys into healthy recipients, none of whom contracted the virus. 

American scientists say transplanting kidneys from patients with hepatitis C is safe after successfully transplanting 53 infected kidneys into healthy recipients (file image)

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that inflames the liver and is usually acquired from infected blood. If left untreated, the infection can cirrhosis – or scarring of the liver. 

Over time, this can cause the liver to stop working properly. In severe cases, life-threatening problems such as liver failure or liver cancer can eventually develop. 


Hepatitis C is inflammation of the liver and there is no preventive vaccine.

There are around three million people in the US and 215,000 people in the UK who are living with chronic hepatitis.

Most aren’t aware that they are infected, according to the CDC. 

Spread through contaminated blood, hepatitis C tends to develop into a chronic infection after six months.

The infection attacks the liver, leading to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

 Symptoms include:

  • Weight loss (without trying) 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Feeling very full after a small meal 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • An enlarged liver, felt as a mass under the ribs on the right side 
  • An enlarged spleen, felt as a mass under the ribs on the left side 
  • Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade 
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen 
  • Itching 
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

But with modern treatments, it’s usually possible to cure the infection, and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy. It’s estimated around 215,000 people in the UK have hepatitis C.

The virus killed 1.34million people in 2016 alone – 140,000 more than tuberculosis, 340,000 more than HIV and 621,00 more than malaria. 

Worldwide, it affects 71million people, and a great number of those infected will develop liver cancer or cirrhosis in the future. 

The study was carried out by the University of Tennessee Health Science Centre in Memphis. 

All kidneys were successfully transplanted and participants received a 12-week-long antiviral therapy. 

None of the patients showed any signs of hepatitis C following the procedures but they did contract other viral infections.

Three developed the BK virus, which is common after transplantation and is treatable. Symptoms can feel like a common cold.

The BK virus is a latent infection that lives in the kidneys in about 90 per cent of healthy people who show no sign of infection.

Reactivation can occur after an organ transplant as the the immune system is put under heightened stress.

But by the end of the 12-week study, all participants were infection-free.  

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