Background: The cloning of yet another hepatitis virus, GB virus-C (GBV-C), has provided the opportunity to study the prevalence, and clinical and laboratory characteristics, associated with GBV-C infection among cadaver organ donors and recipients of organs from infected donors.
Methods: Stored sera from a cohort of cadaver organ donors from eight organ procurement organizations, representing different geographic regions of the United States previously screened for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, were tested for GBV-C RNA by polymerase chain reaction using degenerate primers derived from the NS3 helicase and 5'-untranslated regions of the GBV-C genome. Pre- and posttransplantation clinical data, and prevalence of GBV-C RNA among recipients of organs from GBV-C RNA-positive and -negative donors, were studied at one of the organ procurement organizations.
Results: Twenty-one of 76 (27.6%) anti-HCV ELISA1-positive donors tested positive for GBV-C RNA compared with 6 of 82 (7.3%) ELISA1-negative donors (P=0.001). The prevalence of GBV-C RNA, extrapolated to all cadaver organ donors, was 8.3% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.6-11.1%) and was higher than the prevalence of HCV RNA (2.4%). Among ELISA1-positive donors, GBV-C RNA was present in 13 of 35 (37%) donors with HCV RNA, compared with 8 of 41 (20%) donors without HCV RNA (odds ratio [OR]=2.44, P=0.09). Blood alcohol level of more than 100 mg/dl (OR=9.43, P=0.05) and a positive anti-HCV ELISA2 (OR=4.58, P=0.001) were significantly associated with GBV-C infection. In addition, there was a trend toward an association between history of drug abuse (OR=5.23, P=0.06) and younger age (OR=0.97/year, P=0.06) with GBV-C infection. Organs from four GBVC-positive donors and 47 GBV-C-negative donors procured by the New England Organ Bank (Newton, MA) were transplanted into 6 and 79 recipients, respectively. Among recipients of organs from GBV-C RNA. positive donors, the posttransplantation prevalence of GBV-C RNA (25%) was not significantly higher than among recipients of organs from GBV-C RNA-negative donors (23%). Among recipients in whom both pre- and posttransplantation sera were available, one of three (33%) recipients of kidneys from GBV-C RNA-positive donors acquired GBV-C RNA after transplantation, compared with 4 of 40 (10%) recipients of kidneys from GBV-C RNA-negative donors. After a median follow up of 6 years, the posttransplantation prevalence of liver disease, and graft and patient survival, were not significantly different between recipients of organs from GBV-C RNA-positive and -negative donors.
Conclusions: Although GBV-C could be transmitted by organ transplantation, the results of this study preclude definitive conclusions. Further studies are required to determine the risk of transmission of GBV-C by organ transplantation and its role in posttransplantation liver disease.