While liver transplant outcomes were historically poor in people coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV), they have improved significantly in the era of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy, a recent analysis of U.S. organ transplant data showed.
The availability of highly potent DAA therapy should change how transplant specialists view patients coinfected with HIV/HCV who need a liver transplant, according to researcher Jennifer Wang, MD, chief gastroenterology fellow at the University of Chicago, who presented the results of the analysis at the annual Digestive Disease Week® (DDW). Cumulative graft survival rates since the introduction of DAAs are comparable between transplant recipients with HIV/HCV coinfection and recipients who are both HIV and HCV negative, according to the study.
“Having hepatitis C no longer confers worse patient survival in the DAA era, and this is the main takeaway from our study,” Dr. Wang said.
The study also showed that the number of liver transplants among HIV-infected patients has increased over the past 4-5 years. However, the absolute number remains low at 64 cases in 2019, or less than 1% of all liver transplants that year, and only about one-third of those HIV-positive recipients had HCV coinfection, according to Dr. Wang.
Moreover, relatively few centers are performing liver transplants for patients who are HIV/HCV coinfected, and there is significant geographic variation in where the procedures are done, she said in her presentation.
Reassuring data that should prompt referral
Taken together, these results should offer reassurance to transplant centers that patients coinfected with HIV/HCV are no longer at increased risk for poor outcomes after transplantation, said, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
“The additional call for action should be beyond the transplantation community to ensure that referrals for liver transplant are where they should be,” Dr. Durand said in an interview.
“With a number of only 64 transplants a year, we’re not doing enough, and there are more patients that could benefit from liver transplants,” added Dr. Durand, who is principal investigator of HOPE in Action, a prospective, multicenter, clinical trial evaluating the safety and survival outcomes of HIV-positive deceased donor liver transplants in HIV-positive recipients.
Impact of the HOPE Act
Liver transplantation for HIV-positive patients has increased since the signing of the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act in 2013, according to Dr. Wang.
The HOPE act expanded the donor pool to include HIV-positive deceased donors, which not only increased the donor supply overall, but specifically helped HIV-positive individuals, who experience a higher rate of waiting-list mortality, according to aon the topic authored by Dr. Durand and coauthors.
However, some transplant centers may be reluctant to do liver transplants in HIV-positive patients coinfected with HCV. That’s because, in previous studies that were conducted before the DAA era, outcomes after liver transplant in HIV/HCV-coinfected patients were inferior to those in patients with HIV but no HCV infection, Dr. Wang said.
Accordingly, Dr. Wang and colleagues analyzed Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) data on adult patients who underwent liver transplants between 2008 and 2019 to see if the introduction of DAAs had leveled the playing field for those with HCV coinfection.