Michigan Woman Who Died After After Double Lung Transplant Contracted Coronavirus from Donor Lungs

A woman who died after undergoing a double lung transplant at the University of Michigan Medical School appears to be the first known person to contract COVID-19 from donor lungs, according to a case report published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

The case is rare and represents “the worst-possible scenario” to play out in a pandemic that has killed half a million Americans, said Bruce Nicely, chief clinical officer of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program.

“To my knowledge, this is the first, and actually the only, documented transmission of COVID-19 to a recipient” from donated organs, Nicely said, noting, that Gift of Life Michigan was not involved in this donation. The transplant occurred in late October and the donor was from out of state.

The woman who underwent the transplant and the donor both tested negative for the coronavirus using a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before the surgery, the case report details.

Whole genome sequencing of the two women and a surgeon –who tested positive for COVID-19 days later – showed that the disease likely originated in the organ donor and spread to the recipient and the surgeon during transplantation.

“By definition, that donor was asymptomatic,” said Dr. Daniel Kaul, who is the director of the Transplant Infectious Disease Service at the University Michigan and was among the study authors. “But it’s important to recognize the donor was tested with a standard PCR and was negative, and that test was repeated on that same specimen, and was negative again.

“In most asymptomatic carriers, the vast majority — greater than 90% — would test positive.”

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SOURCE: USA Today; Detroit Free Press, Kristen Jordan Shamus

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