Donating body to science

I recently contacted a local university about donating my body when I die—hopefully many years from now—but they are unable to accept my donation due to my hepatitis B status. Does anyone know if any organization or university would find it useful to accept the donation of a body that has had the Hep B virus?


Hi @elderberryblu,

Great question and one that I’d be interested in too (as a scientist and someone with hepatitis B). Are there any @ScienceExperts or @HealthExperts who could provide some input here? I’d also be interested in donating after I’m done using it.


Hi @elderberryblu,

First, thank you for your generosity. Medical students need to be trained on human anatomy, and body donations are essential for that. They deeply appreciate the donors and sincerely honor their memory.

As a med school professor for 30 years, I am not surprised that you are not eligible to donate your body. Med students are almost always required to be vaccinated against HBV, but the vaccine is not effective in 5-7% of individuals, so in our class of 180 students there are always about 10 students who are non-responders for whom working with scalpels around infected tissues would be dangerous. Also, the dissections are often distributive, with teams of students rotating among a set of bodies to study different parts of the anatomy. This would make the logistics of doing the anatomy class safely for the non-responders very complex.

I hope this was not too much information about how the bodies are used. After all these years, I sometimes loose track of what non-med school folks are comfortable knowing.



That makes sense, John. Thanks for explaining, which didn’t make me squeamish at all.

I am HBV immune (naturally cleared the virus) and have signed up to donate my body after I die and was accepted.

But now my question is can my body still be rejected the day I die from me having a previous exposure to HBV resulting with surface and core antibodies and undetectable DNA <10?


Hi @elderberryblu

First up, your generosity will be greatly appreciated if this goes through. I was an anatomy student once and found studying the human body from different walks of life was interesting and fundamental to my learning.

To answer your question, I believe it depends on the university and the purpose.
For instance, the University of Sydney, Australia, does not accept donations when a certain disease is present. According to the USYD Body Donor Program, Hepatitis of all viral forms is one of them, unfortunately.

However, the University of New South Wales, Australia, has the UNSW Museum of Human Diseases which displays specimens affected by diseases and injuries. I was a student there once and would visit the Museum to familiarise certain diseases.

In summary, it would be ideal to apply for the body donor program and let them get back to you with the result.

All the best with the application process and I hope you are doing well.


Hi Rob,

Rejecting your body or tissues due to a cleared HBV infection would be highly unusual. Your tissues are not infectious. You may be harboring trace amounts of functional cccDNA (presumably in the liver), but those are not producing enough HBV to be detectable even by the most sensitive assays available. This is because your immune system “won” the battle with HBV. As far as the medical community’s filters for body donation are concerned, you are not infected and are essentially in the same category as someone who had never been infected but was vaccinated.

Note that we do not know if all people who cleared HBV naturally still harbor trace amounts of functional cccDNA. It could be as low as a few percent or as high as nearly everyone—without being able to normally detect it we just cannot figure this out. The only way we know it is there is that a fraction of people who had previously cleared HBV will suffer HBV resurgence upon strong immune suppression. It is most common (still rare!) in people receiving B-cell targeting immune suppressants like rituximab.

I hope this helps.


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John, thanks for your response.

For the past 2 ½ years I’ve been taking prednisone (immunosuppressant) for an autoimmune inflammatory muscle disease (polymyalgia rheumatia) that was prescribed by a rheumatologist but my GI doc would prefer that I go on a biologic (Kevzara) instead as she believes prednisone is more detrimental to my body than a biologic would be. But I’m a little afraid if a biologic were to reactivate my HBV. And if so, then what happens?

Is reactivation just as “silent” as the first infection, or does it come on with a vengeance and is debilitating?

I’d rather get the correct info from you and from others who have been working with HBV with knowing its in’s and out’s of the virus than possibly reading inaccurate info off of Dr. Google.

Thank you for all that you do.
It’s much appreciated.


Hi Rob,

I’m a basic/translational PhD scientist who cannot give medical advice, although I can comment on the biology underlying treatments. Your latest question is leaving my area of expertise. The only thing I can say is that HBV resurgence in context of strong immunosuppression can be severe, so physicians monitor HBV carefully. Details of how these individual drugs may affect HBV need to be addressed by qualified people such as your physicians.

Sorry not to be able to help with this question.


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I think you gave a good answer to my question that reactivation can be severe, of which I have read . :+1:

My GI mentioned that if reactivation were to occur that I would see elevations in my AST and ALT when I go for routine blood work for other providers and would just have to make an appt. with her where she would start me on medication asap.

All this info just gives me a heads up if things were to occur and makes me better prepared and hopefully less stressed out in the event if I am ever in this situation.

Thank you, your expertise is valuable to me and to others.


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That’s very interesting to know. Is hepatitis b that infectious that even after death, we can still infect others