APR 01, 2016 08:50 AM PDT

Hopkins Docs Successful In First HIV-Positive Transplant

First US HIV-positive transplant successful

Early in March 2016, Hopkins doctors transplanted organs from a deceased donor into two recipients. But what made this operation so unique was that both donor and recipients were HIV-positive. The procedure represented the first HIV-positive transplant in the United States since 1988, when a law made it illegal for HIV-positive people to donate their organs.
The deceased donor was an HIV-positive woman from Connecticut whose kidney and liver were given to two patients who also had HIV. According to reports, both recipients have been living with HIV for 25 and 30 years, each, and both had been on the organ waiting list for years. Hopkins doctors also reported that the transplants were successful with both recipients recovering well – the kidney recipient was recently discharged and the liver recipient is expected to go home soon too.

The procedure was considered a landmark one because it is the first successful execution since the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act was passed in February of 2013. Prior to this, organ sharing between HIV-positive individuals was not permitted.
"It occurred to us that there are thousands of patients with HIV in need of kidney transplants, liver transplants, who were waiting on waiting lists and suffered high risks of dying while waiting for these organs," said Dorry Segev, associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who helped draft the HOPE Act. "And at the same time, we were throwing away organs from donors infected with HIV just because they were infected with HIV. These were potentially perfectly good organs for these patients."
But even after the HOPE Act passed, it took 3 more years of research to develop the safety guidelines and special considerations for this type of transplant surgery. One guideline in place for HIV-positive transplants is that both donor and recipient have to have the same type of HIV strain. This is to prevent the donor from receiving a more aggressive HIV strain, and thereby compromising their health.
"We want to make sure," he says, "that we don't take people who have a relatively nonresistant form [of HIV] and then give them something from a donor who had pretty high-resistance patterns, thereby requiring them to make major changes to their regimen, and maybe even have an HIV that would be less easy to control."
HIV-positive patients still have the option to wait for non-HIV donor organs. However, opting for HIV-positive transplants could mean shorter wait times for HIV-positive patients as well as those without HIV. Segev approximates between 500-600 HIV-positive people could be suitable donors, whose organs then could save more than 1,000 people. That’s 1,000 more people whose lives could be saved with organ transplants between HIV-positive individuals. And because the pool of available donors increased, the wait time for organ transplants could be shortened, for both people with and without HIV. 

Additional sources: CNN, NPR
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 16, 2019
Scientists Define a New Alzheimer's-like Disease
A team of international scientists has defined a new type of dementia that closely mimics the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease has been n...
OCT 16, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
OCT 16, 2019
Diagnostic And Therapeutic Applications For Virtual Reality In Mental Health
Even amongst concerns about the harmfulness of too much screen time, virtual reality (VR) has made its way into healthcare. Researchers in the field of psy...
OCT 16, 2019
OCT 16, 2019
Fibromyalgia Linked to Gut Microbes
Using clinical samples, scientists identified differences in the microbial population in the guts of people with fibromyalgia....
OCT 16, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 16, 2019
Discovery of Bone Bits in Blood may Help Explain Vascular Calcification
As we age, calcium can build up in various tissues in the body, and cause them to harden in a process called calcification....
OCT 16, 2019
OCT 16, 2019
New Observations of a Cancer Transcriptase
New research shows a transcriptase that helps time cell death varies in expression, and is unusually localized, in cancer cells.  The transcriptase, T...
OCT 16, 2019
OCT 16, 2019
Nanolaser designed to function in brain tissue
Scientists have developed a nanolaser (miniaturized laser) that can function inside living tissues. According to researchers, the laser is about 1/1,000th the thickness of a single human hair...
Loading Comments...