Liver transplantation from active COVID-19 donors: A lifesaving opportunity worth grasping?

Renato Romagnoli, Salvatore Gruttadauria, Giuseppe Tisone, Giuseppe Maria Ettorre, Luciano De Carlis, Silvia Martini, Francesco Tandoi, Silvia Trapani, Margherita Saracco, Angelo Luca, Tommaso Maria Manzia, Ubaldo Visco Comandini, Riccardo De Carlis, Valeria Ghisetti, Rossana Cavallo, Massimo Cardillo, Paolo Antonio Grossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted transplantation landscape. Scientific societies recommend against the use of donors with active SARS-CoV-2 infection. Italian Transplant Authority recommended to test recipients/donors for SARS-CoV-2-RNA immediately before liver transplant (LT) and, starting from November 2020, grafts from deceased donors with active SARS-CoV-2 infection were allowed to be considered for urgent-need transplant candidates with active/resolved COVID-19. We present the results of the first 10 LTs with active COVID-19 donors within an Italian multicenter series. Only two recipients had a positive molecular test at LT and one of them remained positive up to 21 days post-LT. None of the other eight recipients was found to be SARS-CoV-2 positive during follow-up. IgG against SARS-CoV-2 at LT were positive in 80% (8/10) of recipients, and 71% (5/7) showed neutralizing antibodies, expression of protective immunity related to recent COVID-19. In addition, testing for SARS-CoV-2 RNA on donors’ liver biopsy at transplantation was negative in 100% (9/9), suggesting a very low risk of transmission with LT. Immunosuppression regimen remained unchanged, according to standard protocol. Despite the small number of cases, these data suggest that transplanting livers from donors with active COVID-19 in informed candidates with SARS-CoV-2 immunity, might contribute to safely increase the donor pool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • cirrhosis
  • clinical research/practice
  • donors and donation: deceased
  • donors and donation: donor evaluation
  • donors and donation: donor-derived infections
  • ethics and public policy
  • infection and infectious agents - viral
  • infectious disease
  • liver transplantation/hepatology
  • organ procurement and allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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