Avoiding risks of infection after transplantation

Patients have a high risk of serious infections after organ or stem cell transplantation. The number of these complications is large, but too little is currently known about the links between transplantation and infections. The German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) has established a cohort that offers an excellent basis for researching this problem: The DZIF Transplant Cohort provides comprehensive medical data and biological samples from transplanted patients throughout Germany. 

The DZIF Transplant Cohort was set up in 2014 and currently contains 21,025 blood samples and a further 6,605 biosamples; a total of 1,661 patients have been included in the database to date. This includes recipients of organs, such as heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas and stem cells. All of them are at a high risk of infection following transplantation because their immune system is suppressed in order to prevent the new organ from being rejected. Data from other register studies, such as the Swiss Transplant Cohort Study, show that infections are considered to be the cause of up to 52 per cent of all deaths after an organ transplant. 

A recent publication describes the structure and the particular goal of the DZIF Transplant Cohort. The lead authors, Dr. Daniela Schindler und Prof. André Karch, agree that “we need to better understand how infections happen, what factors play a role in the donor and recipient and how the risk can be minimised.” They believe that there are too many unanswered questions and the need for research remains great. More than 3,500 organ transplantations and 7,000 stem cell transplantations are performed in Germany every year.

Although there are many established cohort studies and registers in transplantation medicine, there has so far been a lack of data that look more closely at the infection and a lack of opportunities to combine these data with sample material. “Obtaining medical data and samples, not just at specific times but also in the event of an infection, is the major advantage of the DZIF transplant cohort,” emphasises Schindler, coordinator of the project. Since several university hospitals and transplantation centres are involved in the cohort via the DZIF, many patients can be recruited and samples can be collected.  After they have been included at the time of the transplantation, medical data are collected every three months in the first year, and then on a yearly basis. This includes information on pre-existing conditions, current infections, the process of the transplantation, the medication and any infectious events that occur. Biomaterials collected in biobanks include blood, urine and stool samples in accordance with the highest quality standards.

This database is now available to scientists from the DZIF as well as external researchers for their studies.  “By collecting detailed information about the medications used to suppress the immune system and precisely documenting the complications and treatments, we are offering this field a wide range of research opportunities,” explains Daniela Schindler.  Future studies with samples and data from the cohort can, for example, connect certain viral infections with complications in transplant patients and examine the long-term effect of antiviral therapies as a preventative measure. The parties aim to include 3,500 patients in the cohort by 2023 and follow them up by 2025 at the latest.

More information on the DZIF Transplant Cohort

DZIF Press Office
Karola Neubert and Janna Schmidt
T +49 531 6181 1170/1154


This may interest you as well

Sign in for the DZIF-Press mailing list now

Receive the DZIF press releases directly into your inbox.