Early Changes in Kidney Transplant Immunosuppression Regimens During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sunjae Bae, Mara A. McAdams-DeMarco, Allan B. Massie, Ji Yoon B. Ahn, William A. Werbel, Daniel C. Brennan, Krista L. Lentine, Christine M. Durand, Dorry L. Segev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Kidney transplant recipients have higher risk of infectious diseases due to their reliance on immunosuppression. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, some clinicians might have opted for less potent immunosuppressive agents to counterbalance the novel infectious risk. We conducted a nationwide study to characterize immunosuppression use and subsequent clinical outcomes during the first 5 months of COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. METHODS: Using data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, we studied all kidney-only recipients in the United States from January 1, 2017, to March 12, 2020 ("prepandemic" era; n = 64 849) and from March 13, 2020, to July 31, 2020 ("pandemic" era; n = 5035). We compared the use of lymphocyte-depleting agents (versus basiliximab or no induction) and maintenance steroids (versus steroid avoidance/withdrawal) in the pandemic era compared with the prepandemic era. Then, we compared early posttransplant outcomes by immunosuppression regimen during the pandemic era. RESULTS: Recipients in the pandemic era were substantially less likely to receive lymphocyte-depleting induction agents compared with their prepandemic counterparts (aOR = 0.400.530.69); similar trends were found across subgroups of state-level COVID-19 incidence, donor type, and recipient age. However, lymphocyte-depleting induction agents were associated with decreased rejection during admission (aOR = but not with increased mortality in the pandemic era (aHR = 0.130.471.66). On the other hand, the use of maintenance steroids versus early steroid withdrawal remained similar (aOR = 0.711.071.62). CONCLUSIONS: The use of lymphocyte-depleting induction agents has decreased in favor of basiliximab and no induction during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this shift might have resulted in increases in rejection with no clear reductions in posttransplant mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation

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