Home Health Transplant Affected person Dies After Getting Covid-Contaminated Lungs

Transplant Affected person Dies After Getting Covid-Contaminated Lungs


By JoNel Aleccia, Kaiser Well being Information

Monday, February 22, 2021 (Kaiser Information) — This story additionally ran on NBC Information. It may be republished without spending a dime.

Medical doctors say a lady in Michigan contracted covid-19 and died final fall two months after receiving a tainted double-lung transplant from a donor who turned out to harbor the virus that causes the illness — regardless of exhibiting no indicators of sickness and initially testing adverse.

Officers on the College of Michigan Medical College advised it could be the primary confirmed case of covid within the U.S. through which the virus was transmitted by way of an organ transplant. A surgeon who dealt with the donor lungs was additionally contaminated with the virus and fell unwell however later recovered.

The incident seems to be remoted — the one confirmed case amongst almost 40,000 transplants in 2020. However it has led to requires extra thorough testing of lung transplant donors, with samples taken from deep inside the donor lungs in addition to the nostril and throat, mentioned Dr. Daniel Kaul, director of Michigan Medication’s transplant infectious illness service.

“We might completely not have used the lungs if we’d had a constructive covid take a look at,” mentioned Kaul, who co-authored a report in regards to the case within the American Journal of Transplantation.

The virus was transmitted when lungs from a lady from the Higher Midwest, who died after struggling a extreme mind damage in a automotive accident, had been transplanted into a lady with continual obstructive lung disease at College Hospital in Ann Arbor. The nostril and throat samples routinely collected from each organ donors and recipients examined adverse for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid.

“All of the screening that we usually do and are in a position to do, we did,” Kaul mentioned.

Three days after the operation, nevertheless, the recipient spiked a fever; her blood pressure fell and her respiration grew to become labored. Imaging confirmed indicators of lung an infection.

As her situation worsened, the affected person developed septic shock and coronary heart perform issues. Medical doctors determined to check for SARS-CoV-2, Kaul mentioned. Samples from her new lungs got here again constructive.


Suspicious in regards to the origin of the an infection, docs returned to samples from the transplant donor. A molecular take a look at of a swab from the donor’s nostril and throat, taken 48 hours after her lungs had been procured, had been adverse for SARS-Cov-2. The donor’s household advised docs she had no historical past of latest journey or covid signs and no identified publicity to anybody with the illness.

However docs had stored a pattern of fluid washed from deep inside the donor lungs. After they examined that fluid, it was constructive for the virus. 4 days after the transplant, the surgeon who dealt with the donor lungs and carried out the surgical procedure examined constructive, too. Genetic screening revealed that the transplant recipient and the surgeon had been contaminated by the donor. Ten different members of the transplant group examined adverse for the virus.

The transplant recipient deteriorated quickly, creating multisystem organ failure. Medical doctors tried identified therapies for covid, together with remdesivir, a newly authorized drug, and convalescent blood plasma from folks beforehand contaminated with the illness. Finally, she was positioned on the last-resort possibility of ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, to no avail. Life help was withdrawn, and she or he died 61 days after the transplant.

Kaul referred to as the incident “a tragic case.”

Whereas the Michigan case marks the primary confirmed incident within the U.S. of transmission by means of a transplant, others have been suspected. A latest Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention report reviewed eight attainable circumstances of what’s referred to as donor-derived an infection that occurred final spring, however concluded the most definitely supply of transmission of the covid virus in these circumstances was in a group or well being care setting.

Earlier than this incident, it was not clear whether or not the covid virus might be transmitted by means of stable organ transplants, although it’s effectively documented with different respiratory viruses. Donor transmission of H1N1 2009 pandemic influenza has been detected nearly completely in lung transplant recipients, Kaul famous.

Whereas it’s not stunning that SARS-CoV-2 might be transmitted by means of contaminated lungs, it stays unsure whether or not different organs affected by covid — hearts, livers and kidneys, for example — can transmit the virus, too.


“It appears for non-lung donors that it could be very tough to transmit covid, even when the donor has covid,” Kaul mentioned.

Organ donors have been examined routinely for SARS-CoV-2 through the pandemic, although it’s not required by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Community, or OPTN, which oversees transplants within the U.S. However the Michigan case underscores the necessity for extra in depth sampling earlier than transplant, particularly in areas with excessive charges of covid transmission, Kaul mentioned.

In terms of lungs, meaning ensuring to check samples from the donor’s decrease respiratory tract, in addition to from the nostril and throat. Acquiring and testing such samples from donors might be tough to hold out in a well timed vogue. There’s additionally the chance of introducing an infection into the donated lungs, Kaul mentioned.

As a result of no organs apart from lungs had been used, the Michigan case doesn’t present perception into testing protocols for different organs.

Total, viral transmissions from organ donors to recipients stay uncommon, occurring in fewer than 1% of transplant recipients, analysis exhibits. The medical dangers dealing with ailing sufferers who reject a donor organ are typically far greater, mentioned Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer with the United Community for Organ Sharing, the federal contractor that runs the OPTN.

“The dangers of turning down transplants are catastrophic,” he mentioned. “I don’t suppose sufferers ought to be afraid of the transplant course of.”

Kaiser Well being Information (KHN) is a nationwide well being coverage information service. It’s an editorially impartial program of the Henry J. Kaiser Household Basis which isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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