UW Health patient participates in new kidney transplant clinical trial

UW Health patient participates in new kidney transplant clinical trial
UW Health patient participates in new kidney transplant clinical trial(Marcus Aarsvold)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 5:24 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A UW Health patient became the first participant in a clinical trial targeting viral infections in kidney transplant recipients.

At age 19, Tessa Adolph was diagnosed with a severe kidney infection. Adolph’s kidney function decreased to 7% two years later, necessitating dialysis while she waited for a kidney transplant, according to UW Health.

“We tried many things to treat it, even chemotherapy and I lost all my hair, but in the end, I needed a transplant,” Adolph said.

During the transplantation process, Adolph was diagnosed with the BK virus, an infection that causes symptoms similar to a common cold. UW Health says Adolph’s immune system was suppressed by drugs to prevent the body from rejecting her new kidney, and as a result, the BK virus worsened.

“We walk this balance between preventing infection and causing damage to the kidney or outright rejection, UW Health transplant specialist Dr. Sandesh Parajuli said. “But there just haven’t been may good options for treating BK reinfection.”

With antiviral drugs being ineffective at fighting BK reinfection, Parajuli recommended Adolph participate in a clinical trial where T-cells are extracted from donor blood, purified for transfusion and infused into the patient to treat the infection.

Adolph was the first person to enroll in the trial, using cells donated by her father.

“I was like, ‘yeah, I’m down,” Adolph said. “At that point, I was just tired of dealing with these things.”

Although the treatment had an initial impact on Adolph, UW Health says it did not successfully fight off her BK infection. Adolph is glad she participated because the data collected is crucial for future studies.

“I’m hoping my participation helps someone else down the road,” Adolph said.

Parajuli hopes to enroll 20 patients in the trial. Although the trial is expensive for the hospital, UW Health says it is free for participants.