A modeling study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators finds that the availability of directly-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs to treat hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection could allow the transplantation of livers from HCV-positive donors into HCV-negative recipients without posing undue risk. The team’s report will appear in the journal Hepatology and has been released online.
“The availability of donor livers continues to be the limiting factor in increasing the number of liver transplant surgeries,” says Jagpreet Chhatwal, PhD, of the MGH Institute for Technology Assessment, lead and corresponding author of the report. “Our study shows that transplanting HCV-positive livers into HCV-negative patients and treating with new antivirals can reduce waiting time to transplant and improve overall life expectancy.”
It is not uncommon for HCV-positive organs to be discarded and not utilized for transplant because of the risks associated with HCV infection after transplantation. The recent availability of DAA drugs to treat HCV-positive recipients has led to post-transplant cure rates greater than 90 percent, significantly improving overall transplant success. DAA drugs have also reduced the number of HCV-infected patients who progress to the point of requiring a transplant, increasing the proportion of patients needing a transplant for reasons other than HCV infection. At the same time, the persistent opioid epidemic has led to a greater number of potential donors infected with HCV, who are often young and otherwise healthy. All of these factors have led to increased interest in exploring the possibility of utilizing HCV-positive livers in HCV-negative patients on the transplant waiting list.