Donor shortage has led to the use of hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc)-positive (anti-HBc+) liver allografts for patients in need of relatively urgent orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). Because anti-HBc+ allografts transmit hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection at a high rate, effective prophylaxis is required. We assessed the effectiveness of lamivudine in preventing HBV transmission by anti-HBc+ allografts. Between March 1996 and March 2000 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles, CA), 15 of 169 patients (8.9%) received liver allografts from anti-HBc+ donors. Six patients were hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)+ (group 1), and 9 patients were HBsAg negative (HBsAg-; group 2) before OLT. All patients were administered lamivudine, 100 or 150 mg/d, orally after OLT. Patients who were HBsAg+ before OLT also were administered hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) prophylaxis. Hepatitis B serological test were performed on all patients, and HBV DNA was determined in liver tissues in 10 patients. All 15 patients remained HBsAg- at their last follow-up 2 to 40 months (mean, 17 months) post-OLT. All patients in group 1 had antibody to HBsAg (anti-HBs) titers greater than 250 mIU/mL post-OLT (mean follow-up, 20 months; range, 7 to 40 months). Of the 2 patients in group 1 who underwent liver biopsy after OLT, 1 patient had detectable hepatic HBV DNA despite being anti-HBs+ and HBsAg-. Among the patients in group 2, none acquired anti-HBc or HBsAg. Hepatic HBV DNA was undetectable in the 7 patients in group 2 who underwent liver biopsy after OLT. Anti-HBc+ allografts can be safely used in patients who undergo OLT for chronic hepatitis B and susceptible transplant recipients if prophylaxis with combination HBIG and lamivudine or lamividine alone is administered after OLT, respectively. However, more data are needed to determine the efficacy of lamivudine monotherapy in preventing transmission of HBV infection from anti-HBc+ liver allografts to susceptible recipients.
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