Kidney Transplants at Risk for HIV Infection for HIV Patients

A large percentage of patients that are HIV positive will at some point deal with kidney damage or failure. It is for this reason that at least 1000 kidney transplants are needed for HIV-positive patients. HIV infection can target kidney functions, and at times, the transplant is rejected or also becomes infected with the virus. For the most part, a transplant in an HIV-positive patient is successful, but the percentage of those rejected is higher than for those who aren’t HIV positive. One medical institute decided to look into why this was this case.

From 2006 to 2011 a study was conducted on 19 patients who were both HIV positive and had kidney transplants. The findings were dramatic, as 68 percent of the transplants became infected with HIV. The number came as a surprise because some of the patients had little to no viral load evident in their blood. Those with undetectable levels of the virus were of particular interest: Even with no trace of infection—thanks to regular antiretroviral treatment—the HIV made its way into the new organ. Next, researchers found one of two types of infection in the kidney. The first one involved podocyte cells and other tubular cells, which each manifesting differently. In particular, podocyte cells in the kidneys, which are the cells involved in the process of filtering the blood, were a target for the HIV. Kidney dysfunction is one of the clinical signs of this type of infection, while the other kind of infection is more inconspicuous.

During the trial, a new way to identify kidney infection was developed. The process involved examining patients’ urine. This made it easier for participants to be tested. The results of this study will hopefully bring about ways to reduce organ rejection and infection, and improve the overall results of kidney transplants in HIV patients.