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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 05:55 GMT 06:55 UK
Fungus drug could save kidney patients
Kidney transplant
Kidney transplant patients need drugs to stop rejection
A drug developed from a fungus found on a remote Pacific island could improve the long-term survival chances of kidney transplant patients.

The drug, Rapumune is named after the local word for Easter Island (Rapu Nui). It is launched in the UK on Wednesday.


The new generation of anti-rejection drugs have the potential to improve graft survival

Mr Robert Johnson, Manchester Royal Infirmary
Trials have suggested that the drug could reduce the problem of organ rejection by as much as two-thirds.

The drug also appears to have fewer side effects than other immunosuppressants.

The only way to treat patients with end-stage kidney failure is with dialysis or transplantation.

Transplantation is a more effective treatment than dialysis, and therefore results in an improved quality of life for patients.

Rejection

Mr Robert Johnson
Mr Robert Johnson said the drug could be a significant breakthrough
Patients who are given a new kidney have to take drugs for the rest of their lives to stop the body's immune system from rejecting the donor organ.

However, the drugs can damage the kidney themselves, and in many cases this ultimately leads to the failure of the donor organ.

When this happens the patient has to go back onto dialysis and join the waiting list for another transplant.

As there is a chronic shortage of donor organs, there is no guarantee that another organ will become available before the patient dies.

While 1,600 kidney transplants were carried out last year, 5,000 patients were still waiting for a donor organ.

Rapamune suppresses the immune system in a different way to existing treatments.

Transplant surgeon Mr Robert Johnson, of Manchester Royal Infirmary, said the new drug represented a "significant breakthrough".

He said: "The biggest problems we have at the moment are not having enough organs for transplantation and the long-term side effects of the drugs that we use in order to keep those grafts going.

"To have a drug that is hopefully equally powerful, but does not cause kidney damage would be a big advantage and hopefully would lead to longer life of the kidney."

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24 Jan 01 | Health
Campaign for kidney care reform
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