We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Causes Transplant Rejection?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
TheHealthBoard is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At TheHealthBoard, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Transplant rejection is caused by the body’s immune response to foreign material. The body naturally tends to attempt to destroy encountered foreign matter. As a result, those who receive transplants are given transplant rejection medications that reduce the body’s immune response.

In most cases, the white cells of the blood, called leukocytes, serve our bodies very well. They identify viruses and bacteria that have entered our bloodstream and begin to assiduously eliminate them. Leukocytes help us recover from illnesses and also keep us from getting some illnesses because we have already become immune to them from previous white blood cell action.

However, when someone receives a transplant, leukocytes work against the new organ. They immediately recognize the organ as foreign, and set about to destroy it. More leukocytes are produced to rid the body of the organ, setting up a battle between the new organ and the white blood cells.

When the white blood cells are effective, this causes transplant rejection. Usually transplanted organs are tested for the presence of leukocytes to gauge amount of rejection. The answer to this problem is problematic itself. The leukocytes have to be reduced in order to allow the new organ to do its job.

As such, those who receive an organ take immunosuppressant medications that can prevent transplant rejection. This results in a weakened immune system, because leukocytes are not available to fight off the normal diseases one might encounter. Those receiving a transplant are then more vulnerable to both viruses and infections. In addition to transplant rejection medications, most who receive a transplant frequently must take antibiotics, or are on consistent doses of prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infections.

The long-term use of antibiotics creates another issue. Germs tend to become resistant to antibiotics over time, thus fighting bacteria means switching to newer and stronger antibiotics. As well, patients can be allergic to certain classes of antibiotics, limiting the kinds of medications patients can take. A stronger antibiotic also translates to more side effects like frequent fungal or yeast infections, stomach upset, and skin rashes.

Thus, attempting to avoid transplant rejection requires a very delicate pharmaceutical balance. One must have eliminated enough leukocytes to avoid transplant rejection, but not so many that viruses will claim the life of the patient. Antibiotics must be given to stop infection; yet antibiotics must not be so strong that the patient will die from antibiotic resistant illnesses.

With anti-rejection medications, transplant rejection is now reduced to about 10-15%. Closely matching blood types and blood factors help, but the body still “knows” the organ is not of the body. Only transplants from identical twins, and cornea transplants seem to go unrecognized by leukocytes. As well, valves for the heart taken from pigs, cows and from cadavers seem not to be considered “foreign.” Often transplant rejection is not the cause of death in patients with transplants. Fighting transplant rejection is. Complications from transplants are more likely to cause death than transplant rejection.

The field of transplant technology is, however, continually evolving. At one time, almost all transplants were rejected. Now, continual research into anti-rejection medications is turning the tide on transplant rejection and complications from transplant medications.

The goal of transplant specialists is to reduce rejection, and also to create medications that will not cause those receiving a transplant to suffer life-threatening complications. When this goal is reached, the medical field can certainly claim victory.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.