Researchers at University Hospital Essen in Essen, Germany, have developed a transplantation model in woodchucks that will allow researchers to better model how hepatitis B reinfection progresses in human beings.
After receiving a transplanted organ, patients are usually given an immunosuppressive drug such as cyclosporine. This helps reduce the risk of organ rejection but also makes recipients more susceptible to diseases such as hepatitis B.
This is especially the case with organ transplants such as the liver, where hepatitis B is a major cause of liver cancer and, hence, liver failure. Finding a way to reduce or eliminate the risk of hepatitis B reinfection would greatly enhance the outcomes of liver transplants.
Woodchucks contract a virus similar to hepatitis B called woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV). The German researchers devised a way to perform liver transplants with woodchucks that closely models the procedure in human beings, including the administering of daily doses of cyclosporine.
Woodchucks allow doctors to study hepatitis B reinfection after transplantation. Sonia Bell-Nichols, Virus Weekly, September 10, 2002.
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