Researchers at Tulane University and the University of California at San Francisco have determined that African American patients with hepatitis C who undergo liver transplants have a far better chance of a successful outcome if the liver donor is also Black. Race and hepatitis status generally are not considered in transplant decisions.
The researchers examined the cases of 1,750 African American liver transplants for patients with hepatitis C. African Americans with hepatitis C have lower five-year survival rates than other ethnic groups after undergoing a liver transplant. The researchers found that African American patients who had a Black donor had a five-year survival rate significantly closer to patients of other ethnic groups.
Researchers suspect that differences in immune response to hepatitis C may explain why Black transplant patients fare better when matched with a Black donor. The study, which will be published in the journal Hepatology, demonstrates the need to increase the number of African Americans who agree to be organ donors. According to the federal Office of Minority Health, blacks are 14 percent of organ donors but 29 percent of the patients waiting for transplants.