November 2, 2016: Thousands of people with failing kidneys may soon have a better chance of surviving with a transplanted kidney, but with added risk of receiving a potentially deadly disease. Some patients and doctors say it’s better to contract a disease that can be kept under control than to die while waiting for a healthy kidney.
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For almost 100,000 people in the US, finding a suitable kidney donor is their only hope of returning to a normal life without painful dialysis several times a week, but there are only about 17,000 healthy kidneys available each year. About 4 percent of patients on the transplant waiting list die each year before they receive a kidney. Doctors say the availability of kidneys can be increased but with some additional risk.
Dr Peter Reeves from the University of Pennsylvania says, “We are giving them the opportunity to have a transplant but we are also treating them for a new infection they didn’t have. So that is the trade-off.”
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In a pioneering experiment conducted jointly at the University of Pennsylvania in Johns Hopkins University, doctors are offering to transplant kidneys from disease donors infected with Hepatitis C, a virus-borne disease that attacks the liver but keeps kidneys intact.
Patients who receive such kidneys are no longer required to endure dialysis but have to start taking drugs to keep Hepatitis C in check. The drugs are not cheap and in a small number of cases may not work. After long talks with doctors about all possible outcomes of the procedure some patients accepted the risk.
According to Irma Hendricks, a kidney transplant recipient, “If they didn’t have this study, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I am extremely grateful.”
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The concept has become popular after the discovery of a new and more effective drug that promises to cure ninety-five percent of Hepatitis C patients. Researchers say, if the clinical trials proves to successful, hundreds of available kidneys may become available for saving the lives of patients with incurable kidney disease.
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