A Michigan woman died of COVID-19 two months after receiving a double lung transplant from a donor infected with the virus.
A woman, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, contracted the virus when she received a lung transplant at Ann Arbor University Hospital, Kaiser Health News. Three days after surgery, she began showing symptoms of COVID, including fever and breathing problems. After testing her, doctors discovered she had the disease.
Although doctors treated her with remdesivir and blood plasma, the patient’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she died 61 days after the transplant. The surgeon who handled the lungs was also infected with the virus, but recovered.
The donated lungs came from a woman who suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident, according to KHNreports. The woman’s family says she had no symptoms of COVID and had not traveled recently. Nose and throat samples collected from donors and recipients were initially negative for COVID.
Following the investigation, doctors analyzed a sample taken deep from the donor’s lungs and found the test to be positive, according to a case report in American Journal of Transplantationn.
The incident sparked calls for more rigorous viral testing of organ transplant providers.
“We would absolutely not use the lungs if we had a positive COVID test,” said Dr. Daniel Kaul, director of the Michigan Medicine Infectious Diseases Transplant Service and co-author of the case study. KHN.
“All the checks we normally do and that we are able to do are,” he added.
Despite this incident, virus transmission between organ donors and their recipients is still incredibly rare and occurs in less than one percent of all transplants. Health officials stress that the risk of not having an organ transplant far outweighs the risk of contracting COVID.
“The risks of rejecting transplants are catastrophic,” said Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer of the United Organ Sharing Network. KHN. “I don’t think patients should be afraid of the transplant process.”
In fact, this one incident is the only confirmed case of COVID transmission from donor to recipient among some 40,000 transplants in 2020.