Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An agreement to share kidneys for transplant from live donors was signed in Cyprus this week between Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and Cypriot Health Minister George Pamporidis.
“This is an important medical agreement that will save the lives of Israelis and those on our neighboring island,” said Litzman at the ceremony. “I see it as a national mission.
The agreement strengthens the connection with our neighbor overseas, both diplomatically and medically, and this is an achievement for the Israeli medical system.
I foresee future agreements that will be signed with other countries.”
As Israel is only about 470 km. from the island, organs of healthy relatives whose tissue types are unsuitable to prospective recipients in one country can be flown quickly by private plane to compatible recipients in the other.
Associate director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto, who accompanied Litzman, said: “This agreement shows the excellent cooperation that has been created with the health authorities in Cyprus... and opens the door for further cooperation agreements in the fields of health promotion, food safety and emergency preparedness.”
The cooperation program was prepared by the transplant centers in both countries. It is meant for transplant candidates who have a relative willing to donate a kidney, but the donation cannot be made within the family itself for one of the following reasons – incompatibility between the candidate’s blood type and the blood type of the donor; the presence of antibodies to the blood donor’s kidneys.
A pair who cannot donate to a suitable Israeli will be exchanged with Cyprus and vice versa. The data will be entered into a special computer program that performs cross-checks and finds matches between donors and transplant candidates from other pairs. As a result, new pairs are created – a candidate from one pair and a donor from another pair with whom there is a match, and thus the transplant can be performed.
Any transplant candidate who has a close family donor is entitled to join the program, including dialysis patients and those individuals with kidney failure who have not yet begun dialysis.
Israel already has a cross-donation program named after the late Dani Shmueli. As a result, every year, some 10 pairs of recipients get kidneys even though their relatives do not match.
As a result of the agreement with Cyprus, the pool of cross-donations will increase, increasing the possibilities of finding matches. In addition, a combination of contributors and recipients of different ethnic origin can increase the possibility of finding matches with high levels of harmful antibodies.
The program was approved by the steering committee of Israel’s National Transplant Center headed by Prof. Rafael Beyar, the director- general of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. It was initiated by Prof. Eitan Mor, head of transplantation at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.
There will soon be a tripartite meeting of the health ministers of Israel, Cyprus and Greece on cooperation among their ministries.