More than 90,000 people in the United States are awaiting kidney transplants, with wait times that can be five, seven, even 10 or more years, but new research from a team in the Perelman School of Medicine, in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital and other centers, show more options for cutting those wait times.

Informational chart titled “A multicenter, open-label study of glecaprevir/pibrentasvir to treat recipients of transplanted kidneys from deceased donors with hepatitis c virus infection”
Image: Penn Medicine News

Transplanting kidneys from donors infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV)—organs often considered too risky to transplant—into patients without the virus, was shown to have promising outcomes in recent single-center studies. In 2016, a Penn Medicine team tested this approach and the use of an antiviral medication to eradicate HCV after transplant, which proved successful. Penn investigators have since applied the same approach to heart and lung transplantation. However, these results have never been replicated in multicenter trials.

Now, results from the first multicenter trial of transplanting HCV-infected kidneys into uninfected recipients have been reported in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and showed the effectiveness of this approach in 30 HCV-positive kidney transplants.

“Transplant centers should take note of these results, which reveal an important opportunity for increasing access to kidney transplantation using kidneys that were often discarded in the past,” says senior author Peter Reese, an associate professor of medicine and a nephrologist in the Penn Transplant Institute.