Background: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients have historically been excluded from consideration for transplantation out of concern for the effects of immunosuppression on the progression of HIV disease. Improvements in HIV-related morbidity and mortality with the use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) have prompted a reevaluation of transplantation as a treatment option for HIV-infected patients with end-stage kidney and liver disease.
Methods: Eligible patients met standard transplant criteria. They had undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA levels (viral load) for 3 months (kidney) or were predicted to achieve viral load suppression posttransplantation if unable to tolerate HAART (liver); a CD4+ T-cell count of more than 200 cells/microL (kidney) or more than 100 cells/microL (liver) for 6 months; and no history of opportunistic infections and neoplasm. Standard immunosuppression included prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Basel, Switzerland), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Novartis, East Hanover, NJ).
Results: Fourteen patients received transplants (10 kidney transplants, mean follow-up 480 days; four liver transplants, mean follow-up 380 days). All of the kidney transplant recipients (100%) are alive and with functioning grafts, and three of four liver transplant patients (75%) are alive and well with functioning grafts (all liver transplant patients with normal liver function tests). The one death occurred 445 days posttransplantation in a liver recipient coinfected with hepatitis C virus, who died as the result of its rapid reoccurrence. Rejection occurred in 5 of 10 kidney transplant recipients but did not occur in any of the four liver transplant recipients. HIV viral loads have remained undetectable in all patients maintained with HAART. CD4 counts have remained stable in patients not treated for rejection. Patients receiving protease inhibitors require 25% of the dose of cyclosporine compared with patients receiving nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.
Conclusions: There has been no evidence of significant HIV progression and no adverse effect of HIV on allograft function. Rejection is a concern in kidney transplant recipients, as is the possible poor outcome in hepatitis C virus-coinfected liver transplant recipients. Preliminary data are encouraging and indicate that transplantation should be a treatment option for individuals with well-controlled HIV disease.