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Ann Intern Med. 2005 Nov 1;143(9):648-54.

Transmission of hepatitis C virus to several organ and tissue recipients from an antibody-negative donor.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.



Although hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission through tissue transplantation has been rarely reported, a donor with undetected viremia may infect several recipients. A patient developed acute hepatitis C shortly after tissue transplantation. Ninety-one tissues or organs had been recovered from the donor.


To determine whether the donor was the source of infection and the extent of transmission to other organ and tissue recipients.


Descriptive epidemiologic study; serum testing for HCV infection.


Recipients were located in 16 states and 2 other countries.


Donor and graft recipients.


Hepatitis C virus infection was defined as the presence of anti-HCV or HCV RNA. The authors determined the genetic relatedness of viral isolates from the donor and recipients by genotype comparison and quasi-species analysis.


The donor was anti-HCV-negative but was HCV RNA-positive (genotype 1a). Forty persons received transplants during 22 months. Five persons were HCV-infected before transplantation or had a genotype other than 1a, and 5 persons had no post-transplantation serum specimens available. Of the remaining 30 recipients, HCV infection occurred in 8 recipients: 3 of 3 organ recipients, 1 of 2 saphenous vein recipients, 1 of 3 tendon recipients, and 3 of 3 tendon with bone recipients. These 8 recipients had viral isolates genetically related to those of the donor. No cases occurred in recipients of skin (n = 2), cornea (n = 1), or irradiated bone (n = 16).


Post-transplantation serum specimens were unavailable for 5 recipients.


An anti-HCV-negative donor was the source of HCV infection for 8 recipients of organs or tissues. Although HCV transmission from anti-HCV-negative donors is probably uncommon, changes in donor screening to include routine testing for HCV RNA merit further consideration to improve the safety of transplantation.

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