Transplantation of Hepatitis C-infected Kidneys Found Safe for Non-infected Patients

Transplanting organ from patients infected with hepatitis C could greatly expand the number of kidneys available and reduce wait times.

Transplanting kidneys from hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected donors to uninfected recipients is safe and can be successfully implemented as a standard of care, according to an observational study at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the James D. Eason Transplant Institute at Methodist University Hospital.

According to the study authors, the practice could greatly expand the number of kidneys available for transplantation and reduce wait times for physicians. Currently, HCV-infected kidneys are transplanted to patients already infected with the disease, but the number of these available kidneys exceeds the infected population. As a result, up to 1000 HCV-infected kidneys or more are discarded annually.

Beginning in 2018, the study included 53 patients who had consented to receiving an HCV-infected kidney and were aware of the risk of developing the infection. All transplantations were successful and after receiving 12 weeks of antiviral therapy, the patients who showed no signs of HCV were considered cured.

Although no patients died from the transplantation or thereafter, there were adverse events including a high volume of BK virus, which is common with transplantation, according to the study.

The study authors believe that these findings could mean an approximately 2 year difference in wait time for patients, which is important because the current 5-year survival rate on dialysis is 50%. Overall, the study indicates that the transplantation of HCV-infected kidneys to HCV-negative recipients could become the standard of care, according to the authors.

“This is a landmark outlining a novel approach to using kidneys, that would otherwise be discarded, to save more lives,” James Eason, MD, director of the Transplant Institute, concluded in a press release.


  • Molnar M, Nair S, Cseprekal O, et al. Transplantation of kidneys from hepatitis C—infected donors to hepatitis C–negative recipients: Single center experience. American Journal of Transplantation. Published July 15, 2019. Accessed September 3, 2019.