The largest study to date investigating the transplantation of hearts and lungs from donors who had hepatitis C virus (HCV) has found that the organs can indeed be safely transplanted, reports U.S. News & World Report.

Approximately 1,000 people die in the United States each year waiting for an organ transplant. The opioid crisis has contributed to a recent sharp increase in overdose deaths, which has resulted in a greater number of available organs. However, many of these organs come from people with HCV, raising the question of whether transplantees can receive them safely.

As research has repeatedly affirmed the safety of such transplantation, people have increasingly been receiving HCV-infected organs, including 803 cases in 2018.

In a New England Journal of Medicine paper, researchers in the DONATE HCV Trial Team have now described the outcomes of 35 participants about whom there were six months of follow-up data following heart or lung transplantation.

Within hours of receiving their new organ, the study participants were put on a four-week direct-acting antiviral (DAA) regimen. Nearly all of them initially developed a detectable viral load, but all reached an undetectable viral load within two weeks of treatment. Every participant achieved a sustained virologic response 12 weeks after completing therapy (SVR12, considered a cure).

The study has since enrolled additional participants, bringing the total to 69 transplantees.

Of the initial 35 participants, all were still living six months after their transplantation, and none had experienced organ rejection. None of them experienced adverse health events attributable to the DAA treatment.

To read the U.S. News & World Report article, click here.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.