Renal and Electrolyte Division, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Thomas E Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Post-transplant donor specific antibody (DSA) is associated with poor renal allograft outcomes. However, variable timing of DSA assessment and inclusion of patients who undergo desensitization treatments have hindered our understanding of its consequences and limited its predictive value. Here we prospectively studied non-desensitized patients to determine factors associated with poor four-year outcomes in patients who developed post-transplant DSA. Using serial monitoring, 67 of 294 patients were found to develop DSA by one year. Compared to patients who do not develop DSA, those with DSA exhibit an increased incidence of both clinical and subclinical T-cell-mediated rejection (TCMR). The combination of TCMR plus DSA led to an almost three-fold increase in graft loss compared to either DSA or TCMR alone. Moreover, DSA was associated with higher Banff grade TCMR and chronic changes at one year. Antibody-mediated rejection was uncommon and always associated with TCMR. Amongst factors independently associated with DSA plus TCMR; non-adherence is potentially modifiable. Non-adherence, measured as intra-patient variability of calcineurin trough levels during the first post-transplant year, further risk-stratified patients with DSA plus TCMR such that about 75% of these patients had impending graft loss by four years, whereas adherent patients with DSA plus TCMR had outcomes comparable to other patient groups. Thus, early post-transplant DSA, especially in non-adherent patients, is associated with increased incidence of TCMR and represents a high-risk group of patients who might benefit from targeted therapeutic interventions.