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Smoking increases the risk of reinfection with viral hepatitis in people receiving liver transplants, according to a new study.  Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found the increased risk in both current and former smokers, UPI reports.

“Organs available for transplantation are scarce, with livers particularly in short supply,” lead researcher Dr. Mamatha Bhat said in a news release. “Transplant centers need to take an active role in identifying and minimizing risks to the success of liver transplantation.”

Dr. Bhat identified 444 patients who received a liver transplant from 1990 to 2004; of those patients, 63 received repeat transplants. The study found 23 percent of transplant recipients were current or former smokers, and 78 percent were non-smokers. For smokers, recurrent viral hepatitis-free survival time was less than one year, compared with almost five years for non-smokers.

The study appears in the journal Liver Transplantation.

The researchers say their findings suggest that tobacco may adversely affect immune system responses in patients who receive liver transplants for viral hepatitis. They say that encouraging liver transplant patients to stop smoking before their surgery may improve their outcome following transplantation.

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