Doctors Use Hepatitis C-Infected Kidneys to Save Lives

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Published on October 27, 2016

A new study at Johns Hopkins hopes to save hundreds of transplant patients’ lives every year with diseased kidneys.

Hope may be within striking distance for thousands of desperate transplant patients waiting years for a donated organ.

“For most patients, this is really a no brainer. If it was me or one of my family members, I would absolutely sign up,” said Dr. Christine Durand, assistant professor of medicine & oncology at Johns Hopkins.

Watch the video here.

Dr. Niraj Desai, director of kidney and pancreas transplant program at Hopkins says the patients should never get the infection at all.

Nearly 120,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for organ transplants right now, 82-percent of those need kidneys.

As part of a new study, doctors at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania transplant hepatitis C-infected kidneys to patients without the disease then “cure” the diseased organs.

Dr. Niraj Desai, director of kidney and pancreas transplant program at Hopkins says the patients should never get the infection at all.

“We sort of give them the medication, they then don’t show evidence of it in their bloodstream, and it will be no different than someone whose never been exposed,” Desai said.

“This strategy of using them in kidney transplant, organ transplant, is a potential silver lining to what is a national tragedy,” said Durand

With this strategy, about 500 more transplants could be performed each year–500 more lives potentially saved.

The trial includes 10 patients from the Baltimore area, five of those transplants have already been done.
Many of the infected organs come from otherwise healthy drug overdose victims.

Doctors will watch those first 10 patients for a full year to determine if it’s safe to expand the program.

Hopkins is also researching the use of HIV-positive organs in HIV-positive patients.