Doctors Tried Transplants Using Diseased Organs. One Year Later, the Recipients Are Still Disease-Free

From TIME - March 5, 2018

More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a kidney transplant, and new research suggests an unusual approach may help cut down the list: using diseased kidneys.

In a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers gave 10 willing people, who were in need of a kidney transplant, kidneys that were infected with hepatitis-C, followed by medication known to clear the infection. All 10 remained free of the disease one year after their landmark transplants.

The trial, which occurred at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is one of a few happening nationwide. Currently, hepatitis-C infected organs are discarded; about 500 kidneys are thrown away each year due to the infection. But in the last few years, several new and highly effective hepatitis-C drugs have been approved. The drugs have been shown to clear the disease up to 98% of the time.

So far, the same appears to be true when diseased organs are transplanted. At Johns Hopkins, researchers approached men and women over age 50 who had been on the waiting list for kidney transplants for an average of more than four months. None of the people had hepatitis C at the time. Ten peoplewith an average age of 71agreed to be given hepatitis-C infected kidneys.

While they were waiting to receive the transplant, the doctors gave the recipients a dose of an oral pill containing grazoprevir/elbasvir, a drug combination sold under the brandname Zepatier. The men and women continued to take the pill daily for 12 weeks after the transplant. Three of the people also took another treatment called sofosbuvir (sold under the brandname Sovaldi, among others), to treat their specific strain of hepatitis-C.


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