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Organs spread hepatitis C.

Transplanted organs, the gift of life for many, can use a potentially fatal liver disease if they come from donors infected with hepatitis C, warn researchers who have identified 12 such case.

Their study confirms earlier hints that the virus responsible for hepatitis C can spread via transplanted organs, as is the case with hepatitis B. This finding may compel organ banks to begin screening donor tissues for evidence of the hepatitis C virus, says Andrew S. Levey of the New England Organ Bank in Brookline, Mass.

Levey and his colleagues testd frozen blood serum obtained from 716 organ donors whose tissues were transplanted from 1986 through 1990. The analysis identified 13 donors who had antibodies to the hepatitis C virus -- a microorganism first identified in 1988. Kidneys, hearts and livers from the infected donors went to 29 recipients, the team reports in the Aug. 15 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE.

When the researchers contacted the physicians of the 29 transplant recipients, they learned that 14 of these patients (48 percent) developed some form of hepatitis within about four months after the transplantation. All 14 cases were severe; two of the patients later died of the disease.

Levey's team analyzed blood samples from 13 of the 14 hepatitis-afflicted recipients, using a recently developed test that detects antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (SN: 1/6/90, p.7). Evidence of the virus turned up in 12 of the samples, strongly suggesting that it cause their liver disease.

Levey says the New England Organ Bank now includes the hepatitis C test in routine donor screens. It does not allow transplants of C-infected organs unless the recipient is near death and has no alternative.
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Title Annotation:transplanted organs
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 17, 1991
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