HIV-Positive Kidney Transplantations Offer Hope

New research shows that people with HIV could be a safe kidney donation source and offer more transplantation options to other people with HIV.


People with HIV could be a safe kidney donation source for other people with HIV, according to researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Their study followed 51 study participants with HIV who received kidney transplants from deceased donors with HIV in South Africa.

Five years after kidney transplantation, 83% of the South African cohort survived; 79% still had a functioning transplanted kidney. Those findings are similar to findings from a 2010 US NIAID-funded study, with kidneys from both living and deceased donors that reported an 88% survival rate and 74% kidney graft survival rate after 3 years.

All participants in the South African cohort were virally suppressed at the time of transplantation. The researchers did not observe any increases in viral load among those who adhered to antiretroviral therapy (ART). While 10 participants changed their ART regimens during the study, none did so because of drug resistance.

Deceased donors had strains of HIV genetically distinct from those of the transplant recipients. The investigators watched closely for signs of possible superinfections with strains of HIV that might be resistant to the recipient’s ART regimen. They identified only 1 potential case of transient superinfection, but further analyses determined that it was most likely residual virus carried over from the donor during the transplant and not a true sustained superinfection. “By using the most advanced laboratory techniques available, our team showed that HIV superinfection is of limited risk in these patients,” said study author Andrew Redd, PhD, of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation.

Such studies were illegal in the US before the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act passed in 2013. The law intended to increase the availability of organs for transplantation for people with HIV and permits US transplant teams with an approved research protocol to transplant organs from donors with HIV into qualified recipients with HIV and end-stage organ failure.

Two ongoing NIAID-funded clinical trials, the HOPE in Action Multicenter Kidney Study and the HOPE in Action Multicenter Liver Study, are comparing clinical outcomes among people living with HIV who receive organs from deceased donors with HIV to those who receive HIV-negative organs.

Next Article: