Hepatitis virus used as a weapon against the rejection in transplant patients

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According to research recently published by the journal Science Traslational Medicine, the hepatitis C virus (known as HCV) has become an interesting tool when faced with rejection in liver transplant patients.

As reported by the abovementioned study, 50% of people infected with hepatitis C (17 out of a total of 34) who underwent transplantation were able to maintain the performance of their new liver, even after they stopped taking immunosuppressive drugs – a type of drug administered to this type of patient so that their body does not recognise the transplanted organ as a foreign entity, with the risk of rejection that this implies.

This is a situation, which, in spite of the high percentage of patients in whom it works (50% of cases), has no clinical application. In view of the fact that the risk of rejection disappeared in one out of two patients – as shown in the investigation – hepatitis C infection could cause the rapid onset of cirrhosis in the transplanted organ. In any event, it is possible that this research may become a discovery that brings to light part of the unknown behaviour of our immune system.

An investigation that offers not only new answers, but also new questions

According to the doubts raised by some researchers, the difficult thing in these cases is to know whether this type of situation, which the HCV virus generates by pure chance, can be intentionally caused to avoid possible rejection by the immune systems of patients receiving transplants.

Unfortunately, researchers still do not have the answer to this question, nor to the most important question in these cases: “Why does it work in some patients and not in others?” There is still one remaining question to resolve: “How do these cases affect the generation drugs for the treatment of hepatitis C patients who have overcome transplant rejection?”

At the other end of the scale, we must highlight something that the investigation has managed to clarify, that is to say, the doubts over the so-called operational tolerance. Until now, it was considered that patients suffering from chronic infections, such as hepatitis C, did not have the possibility to take oneself off the immunosuppressive drugs without risk of rejection. While other patients, especially liver transplant recipients could stop taking the medicine with up to 60% probability of suffering no rejection.

At any rate, the challenge for the next few year’s centres on continuing to unravel our complex immune system, as well as furthering research into new drugs that reduce the rejection rate of liver transplant patients.

At Best Doctors we will continue to support the dissemination of research (similar to what we have published on this blog today), which has the back-up of prestigious publications and sheds light for future understanding and treatment of diseases and medical problems.

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