CD4 Count in HIV− Brain-Dead Donors: Insight into Donor Risk Assessment for HIV+ Donors

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The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Organ Policy Equity Act allows for transplantation of organs from HIV-infected individuals (HIV+), provided it is performed under a research protocol. The safety assessment of an organ for transplantation is an essential element of the donation process. The risk for HIV-associated opportunistic infections increases as circulating CD4+ lymphocytes decrease to less than 200 cells/μL; however, the numbers of circulating CD4+ cells in the HIV-negative (HIV−) brain-dead donor (BDD) is not known.


Circulating T-lymphocyte subset profiles in conventional HIV− BDD were measured in 20 BDD in a clinical laboratory.


The mean age of the BDD cohort was 48.7 years, 95% were white and 45% were women. The average body mass index was 29.2 kg/m2. Cerebrovascular accident (40%) was the most prevalent cause of death. Sixteen (80%) subjects had a CD4 count ≤441 cells/μL (lower limit of normal) and 11 (55%) had a CD4 count less than 200 cells/μL; 11 (55%) subjects had a CD8 count ≤125 cells/μL (lower limit of normal). CD4/CD8 ratio was below normal in 3 patients (normal, 1.4-2.6). No recipient had a recognized donor-associated adverse event.


Absolute numbers of CD4 and CD8 T-lymphocytes are commonly reduced after brain death in HIV− individuals. Thus, CD4 absolute numbers are an inconsistent metric for assessing organ donor risk, irrespective of HIV status.

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