WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- In a first of its kind, kidney transplantation took place on Monday where a kidney from an HIV-positive living donor was donated to an HIV-positive recipient at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
- Due to the recipient and donor having different HIV strains, they are on an antiretroviral medication to repress their HIV.
- Both are doing well and recovering in the hospital.
In a medical breakthrough, a kidney from a living donor with HIV was successfully transplanted to an HIV-positive recipient on Monday by surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is hoped that such an event will widen the pool of available organs and bolster HIV awareness.
The recipient, who remains anonymous, won’t be needing dialysis anymore. Doctors said that both recipient and 35-year-old donor, Nina Martinez, who acquired HIV as an infant, are recovering in the hospital.
Having HIV often means certain death for a lot of people. Thus, the procedure, the first of its kind, marks another step in the evolution of HIV as well as an advance for the 1.1 million carriers of the virus since the AIDS epidemic started in 1981.
“Society perceives me as someone who brings death. And I can’t figure out any better way to show that people like me can bring life,” said Martinez in an interview on Saturday prior to the operation.
As is the normal procedure in transplantation, a separate team of surgeons led by Niraj Desai, an assistant professor of surgery at Hopkins, performed the operation. Through a six to eight inch incision in the recipient’s abdomen where the kidneys were not removed, as is common practice, the kidney was implanted near the recipient’s pelvis.
According to Dorry Segev of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research team and removed Martinez’ left kidney, kidney recipients can expect between 20 to 40 years from a transplanted kidney, after which they would require either another transplant or dialysis.
Because Martinez and the recipient have different strains of the virus and resistance to HIV medication, the recipient will be closely monitored over the next months. While both Martinez and the recipient remains on antiretroviral medication indefinitely to suppress their HIV, the recipient will also take drugs to block organ rejection. Such medications are not expected to hinder HIV-suppressing drugs.
Due to increased risks of kidney disease, it used to be too dangerous to leave an HIV-positive person with just one kidney. But a study by Hopkins researchers in 2017 on 42,000 people indicated that risks for developing kidney disease for some HIV-positive donors who are healthy isn’t a lot greater than those without HIV, particularly those who smoke.
Martinez is now doing well. Her HIV is well-managed and her immune system is essentially normal, says Christine Durand, a member of the team who evaluated Martinez.
Since 2016, 116 organs from HIV-positive deceased donors had already been transplanted to HIV-positive recipients, while most of the 113,000 people on the U.S. waiting list for organ transplants are in need of kidneys.
Source: Science Alert