Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg- In what is believed to be the first in the world, researchers at Wits University have transplanted a liver from an HIV positive mother to her HIV negative child. 

The child, who at the time of the transplant was 13-months-old, and her mother cannot be identified as part of doctor-patient privacy. 

Doctors at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre said the child had Biliary Atresia and needed a liver transplant. 

As a result of a shortage of donated organs, the child who was critically ill couldn’t not receive one. 

The mother volunteered to donate the liver. 

“Two aspects of this case are unique. Firstly, it involved intentional donation of an organ from a living HIV positive individual. Secondly, pre-exposure prophylaxis [medication to protect at-risk individuals from contracting the HI virus] in the child who received the organ may have prevented the transmission of HIV. 

However, we will only know this conclusively over time,” said Jean Botha, Director of Transplantation at the Transplant Unit at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.

He said going into the transplant they believed the child would be HIV positive. But now, a year after the transplant and numerous tests later, doctors have not been able to find any active HIV infection in the child’s blood stream. 

The baby is currently on ARVs and the doctors are still debating whether to remove the child from the treatment or not. 

“At the moment, we are developing new methods for testing the child, and we hope to be able to have a definitive answer to the question of seroconversion in future.  For now the child will remain on ART until we have a more comprehensive picture,” said Professor Caroline Tiemessen, Researcher Professor at the Wits School of Pathology. 


The Star