Transmission of hepatitis C virus by organ transplantation in the United Kingdom

J Hepatol. 1994 Jun;20(6):768-72. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(05)80148-5.


This study employed a second-generation anti-HCV ELISA, and a second-generation recombinant immunoblot assay and hepatitis C virus RNA detection by polymerase chain reaction to investigate the anti-HCV prevalence in 554 British organ donors and the transmission of hepatitis C virus to heart, liver and kidney recipients between 1984 and 1991. Serum samples from six (1.08%) donors were reactive in the second-generation anti-HCV ELISA and four (67%) of these gave positive or indeterminate results in the recombinant immunoblot assay-2. Of the 15 recipients of these organs from hepatitis C virus-confirmed positive/indeterminate donors, 14 (93%) acquired hepatitis C virus infection and seven (47%) had evidence of hepatitis C virus-related liver disease after transplantation and no evidence of blood transfusion-related transmission. Only six of the 15 (40%) recipients had detectable anti-HCV after transplantation, while 12 of 14 (86%) patients tested had hepatitis C virus RNA in their serum detectable by "nested" polymerase chain reaction. These data indicate a very high rate of transmission with a major risk of the development of liver disease. We believe our study supports the testing of all British organ donors for anti-HCV and that organs from anti-HCV-positive patients should not be transplanted unless the recipient has life-threatening disease and there is a donor shortage, when their use may be justified. Since there are time constraints on organ donor testing, which may frequently be done on call during unsocial hours, we would recommend second-generation ELISA as the current screening test of choice.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Heart Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Hepacivirus / immunology
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis Antibodies / blood*
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Organ Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Hepatitis Antibodies
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies