Can Hepatitis C Aid Transplants?

Usually, to stop a patient’s body from rejecting a transplanted liver, physicians must suppress the immune system. But the presence of hepatitis C infection may make taking immunosuppressive medication unnecessary, according to a study in Science Translational Medicine.

The virus blocks an immune system response that might otherwise lead the body to reject the transplanted organ.

“Our data suggest that in humans, persistent viral infections exert immunoregulatory effects that could contribute to the restraining alloimmune responses, and do not necessarily preclude the development of allograft tolerance,” say the authors of “HCV-Induced Immune Responses Influence the Development of Operational Tolerance After Liver Transplantation in Humans.”

The study tracked 34 people with hepatitis C and found that 17 were able to stop taking their immunosuppressant medications without suffering organ rejection.

“How liver allografts heavily infiltrated by allogeneic T cells avoid rejection and occasionally develop transplantational tolerance remains a key unanswered question in liver immunobiology,” the study states. “The clinical trial and translational research protocol reported here constitute the first attempt to unambiguously address this issue.”

Interesting though this finding is, it could be moot. New drugs to combat hepatitis C are a hot commodity these days.