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May 02, 2017 10:03 AM EDT

A study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has found that kidney transplants done on 10 patients cured them of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The kidneys were given by deceased donors who were also infected with the disease.

The results show new strategies for increasing the supply of organs for over 97,000 patients who are awaiting kidney transplants. The wait even goes as long as five or more years.

Science Daily reported that, last year, Penn Medicine conducted a clinical trial to test the effect of transplanting kidneys from donors with HCV into patients who are currently waiting for donors who do not have the virus. The recipients were then given an antiviral therapy as part of efforts to cure the virus.

David S. Goldberg, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, presented the early data from the study at this year's American Transplant Congress in Chicago. The results were also published in the "New England Journal of Medicine."

Previously, Hepatitis C-infected kidneys were usually discarded since they were believed to be damaged or too "high-risk." The researchers found that the virus can be cured after transplant in the current patient. The success of future studies can lead to a new way for patients on the waitlist to see a transplant.

The researchers approached and enrolled participants who relied on dialysis treatments to stand in for their damaged kidneys. The participants were between 40 and 65 years of age and had waited for a transplant for at least a year and a half.

10 patients received transplants using the protocol, just 58 days after enrolling in the trial on average. Three days after, the patients were tested for HCV and were found to be positive. They were treated with the standard 12-week oral medication Zepatier and were cured of their contracted HIV.

According to, UPenn and the University of Massachusetts will be launching transplant trials of hep C-infected hearts followed by Zepatier treatment. Johns Hopkins plans to conduct a similar study of infected livers.

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