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Transplantation. 1996 Jul 27;62(2):147-54.

Hepatitis C virus and organ transplantation.

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Transplantation Infectious Disease Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is both the leading cause of cirrhosis and hepatic failure leading to liver transplantation and a cause of chronic hepatitis in approximately 10% of all transplant recipients. Beginning 5-10 years or more posttransplant, HCV causes progressive liver disease in a significant fraction of infected individuals and contributes to an increased incidence of opportunistic infection and hepatocellular carcinoma. The existence of multiple genotypes of HCV with differing biologic behaviors and the generation of antigenic diversity of the virus (quasispecies) during the course of infection, limit the capacity of the immune system to generate protective immunity. Antiviral therapy with interferon-alpha is effective in only a minority of transplant patients, and since allografts from HCV infected donors are quite efficient in transmitting the virus, great attention is paid to the appropriate use of organs from HCV-positive donors. At present, these organs should be particularly targeted for patients in emergent need of lifesaving heart, liver, or lung transplants. Issues requiring further investigation include the impact of viral superinfection on HCV-infected recipients of organs from HCV-infected donors and the use of such organs in seronegative patients who are older, diabetic, or highly sensitized, for whom quality of life issues may outweigh the long-term impact of HCV infection.

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