A woman in Michigan died from Covid-19 last fall two months after receiving Covid-infected lungs. Initial tests from the donor prior to the surgery all came back negative and showed no signs of illness. So where did the virus come from?
The nose and throat samples routinely collected from both organ donors and recipients tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. But these testing methods weren’t thorough enough. After the patient’s death, doctors returned to samples from the transplant donor wanting to find the source of infection. That’s when they tested a sample of fluid washed from deep within the donor lungs for the first time and it came back positive for the virus.
All the screening that we normally do and are able to do, we did. “We would absolutely not have used the lungs if we’d had a positive Covid test,” said Dr. Daniel Kaul, who co-authored a report about the case in the American Journal of Transplantation.
The surgeon who handled the donor lungs and performed the surgery also tested positive four days later. Genetic screening revealed that the transplant recipient and the surgeon had been infected by the donor. This is the first time such a case has ever happened in the U.S.
This incident has led to calls for more thorough testing of lung transplant donors, with samples taken from deep within the donor lungs as well as the nose and throat, said Kaul, director of Michigan Medicine’s transplant infectious disease service.
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