Transplantation of kidneys from hepatitis C virus (HCV)-viremic donors into HCV-negative patients followed by direct-acting antiviral therapy was an important breakthrough to increase the number of life-saving kidney transplants. Data suggest that these transplants offer several benefits; however, it is unknown whether adoption of this practice has been shared equitably, especially among disadvantaged groups.
We evaluated United Network for Organ Sharing data on HCV-seronegative adult deceased-donor kidney transplant recipients from January 1, 2017, to June 12, 2020. We compared recipients of a kidney from an HCV antibody− (Ab−)/nucleic acid test− (NAT−), HCV Ab+/NAT−, and HCV NAT+ donor. The primary covariates were as follows: (1) race/ethnicity; (2) female sex; and (3) highest level of education. Models included variables associated with being offered an HCV NAT+ kidney. We fit mixed-effects multinomial logistic regression models with the center as a random effect to account for patient clustering.
Of 48 255 adult kidney-alone deceased-donor kidney transplant HCV-seronegative recipients, 1641 (3.4%) donors were HCV NAT+−, increasing from 0.3% (January 2017–June 2017) to 6.9% (January 2020–June 2020). In multivariable models, racial/ethnic minorities, women, and those with less education were significantly less likely to receive a kidney from an HCV NAT+ donor relative to an HCV Ab−/NAT− and HCV Ab+/NAT− donor. The disparities were most pronounced among Hispanic and Asian patients with less educational attainment (grade school, high school, or some college/tech school).
Despite an increase in transplants from HCV NAT+ donors, we found substantial racial/ethnic disparities in transplantation of these kidneys. These data highlight how the benefits of a scientific breakthrough are often made less available to disadvantaged patients.