Exploring pre-surgery donor-specific antibodies in the context of organ shortage in liver transplant

  • Savio G. Barreto
  • Mark E. Brooke-Smith
  • Eu Ling Neo
  • Paul Dolan
  • Richard Leibbrandt
  • Tim Emery
  • Robert Carroll
  • Alan Wigg
  • John W. ChenEmail author
Original Article



There is a growing disparity between the number of liver transplant (LT) candidates and availability of suitable liver allografts. Antibody-mediated rejection (AMR), secondary to positive donor-specific antibodies (DSA), remains a concern in liver transplantation. This study aimed to correlate expression of DSA on pre-transplant screening and outcomes of LT, specifically development of AMR in liver allografts and liver function profile in the post-operative period.


Data of consecutive patients undergoing orthotopic LT (OLT) at the South Australian Liver Transplant Unit was analysed. All patients underwent DSA testing pre-transplant.


Within a cohort of 96 patients, over a post-OLT median follow-up of 849 days, only 2 patients (2%) developed AMR. While both patients had a positive DSA test preoperatively, overall DSA positivity was noted in 31% patients, with a specificity for prediction of AMR of 0.708. No significant association was noted between AMR (p = 0.092), T cell–mediated rejection/TCMR (p = 0.797) or late hepatic artery thrombosis/LHAT (p = 0.521). There was no significant interaction effect between DSA positivity and serum bilirubin or transaminases over a period of 100 days.


AMR following LT is uncommon. A positive DSA pre-transplant does not imply a definite risk of AMR. Also, there does not exist a significant interaction in time between DSA expression and serum bilirubin or transaminase levels. Until there emerges evidence to the contrary, it appears reasonable to consider DSA-positive donors within the broad context of marginal donors in the context of a worldwide shortage of LT donor allografts.


Rejection Thrombosis Outcomes 



Dr Catriona Brennan (Consultant Pathologist, SA Pathology, Flinders Medical Centre and Lecturer, Flinders University, Adelaide) for providing pathology photomicrographs and for advice

Nicole Williams (Clinical Nurse Transplant Co-ordinator) for help with data collection

Author’s contributions

Conceptualisation and design: JWC, SGB. Data collection: SGB, TE. Data analysis: SGB, RL, RC. Drafting manuscript: SGB. Editing the manuscript for intellectual content: JWC, AW, MBS, ELN, PD, RC. Final approval of the manuscript: all authors

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Supplementary material

423_2019_1831_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 12 kb).
423_2019_1831_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (13 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 12 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hepatobiliary Unit, Division of Surgery and Perioperative MedicineFlinders Medical CentreAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.College of Medicine and Public HealthFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.South Australia Liver Transplant UnitFlinders Medical CentreAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.HPB Surgery UnitThe Royal Adelaide HospitalAdelaideAustralia
  5. 5.South Australian Transplantation & Immunogenetics Service, Australian Red Cross Blood ServiceAdelaideAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Renal MedicineThe Royal Adelaide HospitalAdelaideAustralia
  7. 7.School of MedicineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  8. 8.Hepatology and Liver Transplantation UnitFlinders Medical CentreAdelaideAustralia

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