Doctors perform groundbreaking surgery between HIV+ mother and HIV- child

In a groundbreaking first ever South African surgery, researchers at Wits University have transplanted a liver from an HIV positive mother to her HIV negative child.

After numerous tests, doctors have not been able to find any active HIV infection in the child’s bloodstream.

Azania Mosaka spoke to professor Jean Botha who is the Transplant Surgeon and Director of Transplantation at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre about the surgery.

The only definitive way that we will know, is by actually stopping the antiretroviral therapy and see if the virus is detected in the bloodstream or cells of the child.

Professor Jean Botha, Transplant Surgeon and Director of Transplantation at Wits Donald Gordon

Currently, we have unique and interesting sets of test that have occurred. The child, after the transplant, became HIV antibody positive. We then started using sensitive methods of testing to look for the actual virus in the cells and the plasma of the child and at no point were we able to find it.

Professor Jean Botha, Transplant Surgeon and Director of Transplantation at Wits Donald Gordon

South Africa has the largest antiretroviral therapy programme in the world.

The surgery has sparked a huge debate on whether people living with HIV can now be organ donors.

We suspected that the liver would be full of cells containing the virus and what we are learning now is that may not be the case.

Professor Jean Botha, Transplant Surgeon and Director of Transplantation at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre

In one of the studies, we found the HIV virus was not that prevalent in the liver, the heart and the kidneys. This kind of information will shed light on which organs we could transplant and how much virus is there in these organs.

Professor Jean Botha, Transplant Surgeon and Director of Transplantation at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre

Listen to what the future holds for organ transplants...


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