Hepatitis C+ Organ Transplant

Derek Dubay, M.D.
Dr. Derek Dubay with a patient.

Increasing Transplant Rates By Way of New Practice

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in hepatitis C-positive deceased organ donations, mainly due to the opioid epidemic. Derek Du-Bay, M.D., is the director of the MUSC Health Transplant Surgery Program. “In the past, we would use hepatitis C-positive donor organs only in recipients that also had hepatitis C. However, there currently are few hepatitis C positive recipients due to effective hepatitis C medications,” he says. This resulted in hepatitis C-infected organs being turned down by MUSC to avoid transferring this disease.

At the beginning of 2019, the MUSC Health transplant team initiated a program that has found an innovative way to combat this problem. Studies have found that organs with

hepatitis C can be safely trans-planted into patients without hepatitis C, and then the patient can be successfully treated for the virus after the transplant.

This program is available at MUSC Health for those patients needing heart, lung, liver and kidney transplants. Not only has this initiative helped improve transplant volumes, for heart and kidney there has been a 10% increase, but it has also proven to be safe and effective. “We’ve done it the most in kidney transplant recipients,” says DuBay. “And we’ve developed an effective treatment algorithm that we apply to all the organ systems. So we’re doing the same treatment paradigm for all the patients and we’ve had 100% success in treating the patients following the transplant.”

Patients who participate are transplanted with optimal hepatitis C-positive organs and are treated after their transplant with antiviral medications. It is important to know that this treatment does not interfere with transplant immunosuppressive medications and MUSC Health also offers a dedicated clinic to follow these patients.

Patient education is key, DuBay explains. “I think one of the biggest hurdles is bringing people in ahead of time to tell them about this opportunity. At first, using hepatitis C positive organs into patients without hepatitis C can sound counterintuitive, but there’s robust data that sup-port this practice.”