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Spread of hepatitis C via transplant may decline using new tests

While much attention has been shown on the multiple cases of hepatitis C that are allegedly due to contaminated needles a hospital worker spread in Pennsylvania as well as other states, there are of course other ways in which the disease may be spread. One of those ways is through organ transplantation. Because organ transplant surgeries are now common at hospitals throughout the nation, including in the Pittsburgh area, this could potentially be a big problem.

In 2012 the number of organ transplant operations that occurred numbered 28,051.  That number reflects an increase of 74 percent in a 20 year period. The organs transferred include hearts, livers and kidneys.

Recognizing the risk associated with contracting certain diseases such as hepatitis C in the course of an organ transplant, the Department of Health & Human Services recently issued guidelines regarding the diseases donors of organs being transplanted should be screened for.

Hepatitis C is one of the new diseases that recommendations indicate should be checked for. In testing for the disease, the agency also recommended that different tests be used to look for it. The newer tests are designed to produce results more quickly as well as be more accurate. Because time is often short when it comes to transplants of organs, particularly when the organ is from a deceased donor, tests of this nature are even more important.

The guidelines are currently just that–guidelines. Before they are requirements they must first be adopted by certain federal agencies. It is unclear whether they will be adopted and if they are, when.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "More Organ-Donor Testing Is Advised," Timothy W. Marting and Laura Landro, June 18, 2013

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