Background: Recent studies show that almost all patients who have rejected a kidney transplant had human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies. In this study, we sought to determine whether patients develop HLA antibodies before chronic rejection.
Methods: For the past 8 years, 139 patients who had undergone kidney transplantation were systematically examined, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay-based method, for the development of class-I and class-II HLA antibodies 3 months, 6 months, and yearly after transplantation. Chronic rejection was diagnosed by biopsy.
Results: Among 29 patients with chronic rejection, 100% of the patients had HLA antibodies before rejection. Of these patients, 14 patients developed antibodies de novo. In contrast, among 110 patients with stable function, 27% of the patients developed HLA antibodies posttransplant (P<0.001).
Conclusions: HLA antibodies were found in 29 consecutive cases of chronic rejection failures as much as one year before the loss of grafts. We conclude that HLA antibodies may be a prerequisite for chronic immunologic rejection.