Doctors at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have successfully performed the world’s first-ever liver transplant and the United States’ first-ever kidney transplant between HIV-positive patients.
“For patients living with both HIV and end-stage organ disease … this could mean a new chance at life,” said transplant surgeon Dr. Dorry Segev in a statement.
In 2013, President Obama signed into law the HIV Organ Policy Act, which allows transplants of HIV-infected organs into HIV-infected patients.
It took a while for regulations to be established, but finally last month Segev and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing to perform two transplants between HIV-positive patients, one kidney and one liver.
Both transplant recipients have been living with HIV for more than 25 years. They received the HIV-infected organs from a single deceased donor, and both patients are doing well, Dr. Christine Durand, a transplant infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins, announced on Wednesday.
People with HIV live longer today thanks to antiretroviral drugs and other therapies. But HIV infection, as well as some medications used to treat it, can cause liver or kidney failure.
More than 130,000 Americans are currently on the transplant waiting list, with the majority in need of kidneys and livers. According to Segev, an estimated 500 to 600 would-be organ donors who are HIV-positive die each year. Their organs could potentially save the lives of more than 1,000 people.
As STAT reported earlier this month, the surgical team at Johns Hopkins is also planning to transplant kidneys from deceased donors with hepatitis C into uninfected recipients under a clinical trial protocol that would also be a world-first.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly credited Dr. Dorry Segev with performing the HIV-to-HIV organ transplants. His colleagues at Johns Hopkins Drs. Andrew Cameron and Nabil Dagher performed the liver transplant and Dr. Niraj Desai performed the kidney transplant.