Management of hepatitis C virus infection in liver transplantation with adacolumn apheresis.
Recurrent hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of liver transplant loss, hepatic failure, and retransplantation need. Posttransplantation antiviral therapy in patients with evidence of recurrent disease is the mainstay of management. Although HCV is a hepatocellular pathogen, there is increasing evidence that the virus can infect and persist in other cells. In particular, granulocytes and monocytes/macrophages are known to constitute extrahepatic sites for HCV replication and dissemination. The aim of this study was to apply Adacolumn apheresis as a possible therapeutic alternative to conventional drug therapy to manage HCV infections. Seven patients who underwent liver transplantation for HCV-related cirrhosis were eligible for the study. The patients underwent 5 1-hour sessions for 5 consecutive days. The first treatment was performed in the anhepatic phase of liver transplantation with the intent to early reduce infected granulocytes and monocytes/macrophages. The patients were evaluated over the 5 days after inclusion with 3- and 6-months follow-ups. Early apheresis treatments in the anhepatic phase and over the following 4 days after transplantation produced low viral loads in 4 patients, negative viral loads in 2 patients, and increased viremia in 1 patient. At follow-up, the viremia load was stable in 6 patients without increased transaminase levels. At the end of the treatment cycle, almost all immune cells of the 6 patients maintained CD4+/CD8+ T-cell ratios. The optimal timing of treatment initiation is unknown, but early preemptive therapy is recommended to decrease the risk for recurrent infection. Although this study investigated the responses among a small number of patients, it documented that the Adacolumn changed cellular immunity, promoting early virologic responses.
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