A woman in Michigan died two months after receiving a double lung transplant. The death occurred due to COVID-19. According to the doctors, the lung donor has known to harbor the virus. However, the donor was tested negative for the virus and didn’t have any symptoms.
Officials at the Michigan Medical School said that it could be the first proven case in the US that has led to the virus transmission through an organ transplant. One of the surgeons who handled the lungs from the donor also got infected and fell ill. However, he recovered later.
COVID-19 Infected Lung Transplant Claims Life of Patient
Dr. Daniel Kaul of Michigan’s Medicine’s Transplant Infectious Diseases Services said that the case appears isolated as out of 40,000 organ transplant cases in 2020. This is the only proven incident of coronavirus infection through an organ transplant.
He added that this is the warning sign for more thorough testing of the organ donors. Samples should also be taken from the lungs apart from the nose and throat.
Dr. Kaul has co-authored the report in the American Journal of Transplantation. He said that they had gone through all the initial screenings of the patient. If they had even the slightest of an idea about the infection in the donor, they would not have used the donated lungs.
The donor was a woman from the upper Midwest. She died from a severe brain injury from a car accident. The receiver was a woman who was suffering from obstructive lung diseases. She was admitted to the University hospital in Ann Arbor.
The virus is transmitted from the donor to the recipient of the lungs from a lung transplant.
It was clarified that the nose and throat samples were routinely collected from both the organ donors and the recipient. Both were tested negative for the SARS-Cov2 virus that causes the diseases.
Dr. Kaul said that all the necessary screenings and tests necessary prior to the organ transplant, including the coronavirus, were done.
The medical reports said that the recipient developed a high fever accompanied by a drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing after 3 days of the operation. The imaging results indicated a lung infection.
With the worsening health conditions, the patient developed septic shock and heart-related issues. After that, the patient was tested for the SARS-Cov2 virus. The reports from the new lungs were positive of the coronavirus infection.
The doctors decided to test the samples of the donor as well. The donor’s sample taken 48 hours after the lung procurement was tested negative for the coronavirus. According to the family members, she didn’t have any travel history or show any symptoms for COVID-19.
They even denied any recent exposure to anyone with the diseases. But the doctors still sent a fluid sample from the donor’s lungs that was preserved and kept before the transplant.
The sample fluid was tested positive for the virus causing the diseases. Four days post organ transplant, the surgeon involved in the process too tested positive. The donor infected both.
The recipient was given all the possible and known remedies and treatments for the COVID-19. But to no avail. Eventually, she was put off from life support. The recipient died 61 days after the transplant surgery.
Kaul said that it is highly unlikely to transmit the virus to the recipient from a donated organ if it involves organs other than the lungs. Even if the donor is known to be positive for the virus, it is not likely to get transmitted.
But when it comes to lungs, Kaul suggested that more rigorous screenings are needed.
Kaul also said that it was a tragic and the rarest of the rare cases. So, the patients should not be afraid of organ transplants because denying an organ transplant would be more fatal.