Background: Normothermic machine perfusion permits the ex vivo preservation of human livers before transplantation. Long-term perfusion for days-to-weeks provides the opportunity for enhanced pretransplant assessment and potential regeneration of organs. However, this risks microbial contamination and infection of the recipient if the organ is transplanted. An understanding of perfusate microbial contamination is required to inform infection control procedures and antimicrobial prophylaxis for this technology.
Methods: We modified a liver perfusion machine for long-term use by adding long-term oxygenators and a dialysis filter. Human livers that were not suitable for transplantation were perfused using a red-cell-based perfusate under aseptic and normothermic conditions (36 °C) with a goal of 14 d. Cephazolin was added to the perfusate for antimicrobial prophylaxis. Perfusate and bile were sampled every 72 h for microbial culture.
Results: Eighteen partial human livers (9 left lateral segment grafts and 9 extended right grafts) were perfused using our perfusion system. The median survival was 7.2 d. All organs surviving longer than 7 d (9/18) had negative perfusate cultures at 24 and 48 h. Half of the grafts (9/18) became culture-positive by the end of perfusion. Microbial contaminants included Gram-negative (Pseudomonas species, Proteus mirabilis, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia) and Gram-positive bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis, Enterococcus faecalis, and Bacillus species) as well as yeast (Candida albicans).
Conclusions: Microbial contamination of perfusate is common during long-term perfusion of human livers with both exogenous and endogenous sources. Enhanced infection control practices and review of targeted antimicrobial prophylaxis are likely to be necessary for translation into the clinical arena.
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