New hepatitis C treatments mean that more kidneys are now available for transplant.
Last month, Kiran Shelat let University of Pennsylvania surgeons replace his failing kidneys with one that they knew would infect him with hepatitis C, a virus that could slowly destroy his liver.
But the advent of new hep C drugs, with cure rates of 95 percent or more, has led Penn transplant specialists to see infected kidneys as a small but valuable opportunity to expand the pool of organs for which 100,000 Americans are waiting.
Two days after Shelat’s transplant, tests confirmed that the Yardley civil engineer was hep C positive. He began a 12-week course of Zepatier, Merck’s $55,000 therapy.
Although it is too soon to say Shelat is cured, the virus is now undetectable in his blood, the Penn team announced Tuesday morning. And he is free of peritoneal dialysis, the nightly 10-hour blood-cleansing process that was barely controlling the downward spiral caused by his autoimmune kidney disease.
“Walking from the parking lot to my office was an ordeal,” he recalled. “Only after the transplant, when I started feeling better, did I realize how bad I felt before. Now I’m walking. I’m breathing better. I go up and down steps. It’s like being altogether a different person.”
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