A PROSPECTIVE STUDY OF HEPATITIS C VIRUS INFECTION IN RENAL ALLOGRAFT RECIPIENTS1, 2

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Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the predominant cause of posttransplant non-A, non-B hepatitis among renal allograft recipients. Prior studies evaluating the impact of HCV in kidney transplantation have been retrospective in design and based largely on changes in serum transaminases. We studied a group of HCV-infected end-stage renal disease patients prospectively with pretransplant liver biopsies and close virologic and biochemical follow-up posttransplant. Fourteen patients have been followed a mean of 11.6±5.6 months posttransplant (range, 5-21 months). Six had changes of chronic hepatitis on pretransplant liver biopsy while 8 showed only mild histologic abnormalities. Circulating viral titers increased several-fold over baseline levels during posttransplant follow-up. Viral replication was particularly enhanced immediately following a course of antilymphocyte therapy. Although all patients showed a 2-3-fold increase in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) following transplantation, there were no associations noted between pretransplant liver histology, the use of FK506 and/or cyclosporine-based immunosuppression, and the magnitude of ALT change posttransplant. The only clinical outcome found to differ significantly was a higher incidence of cytomegalovirus infection among patients with chronic hepatitis. All patients are alive with functioning grafts. There have been no episodes of fulminant or subfulminant liver failure. We conclude that HCV-infected patients can be safely transplanted with excellent short-term follow-up. Continued monitoring with sequential liver biopsies will be needed to define the long-term course of HCV infection in an immunosuppressed population.

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