Organ Transplant Patient Dies After Receiving COVID-Infected Lungs

by Jeremy

A Michigan woman contracted COVID-19 and died last fall after receiving a double-lung transplant, doctors said. The organs were infected with the coronavirus, even though the donor initially tested negative and showed no signs of illness.

It appears to be the first confirmed U.S. case of donor-to-recipient transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This virus causes COVID-19, according to a study published earlier this month in the American Journal of Transplantation.


“We would not have used the lungs if we’d had a positive Covid test,” Dr. Daniel Kaul, director of Michigan Medicine’s transplant infectious disease service and a co-author of the study, told Kaiser Health News. “All the screening that we usually do and can do, we did. Throat and nose samples collected from the donor, a woman who died after suffering a severe brain injury in a car accident, had tested negative for the virus. Such pieces are routinely collected from both organ donors and recipients and tested for infection.

The donor had not traveled recently and did not have any recent fever, cough, headache, or diarrhea, the donor’s family told doctors. It’s unknown whether the donor had any recent exposure to someone known or suspected to be infected.

The woman who received the transplant was a chronic obstructive lung disease patient at University Hospital in Ann Arbor. She tested negative for COVID-19 several hours before the transplant procedure.

Three days after the surgery, the patient developed worsening fever, low blood pressure, and respiratory problems. Doctors decided to test samples collected from the patient’s nose and throat and her more inadequate respiratory system for COVID-19 after developing septic shock and heart function problems. The nose and throat sample came back negative, but the lower respiratory model tested positive.

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