Health authorities said a 70-year-old woman died and a 57-year-old man is critically ill in a Boston hospital after each was given a kidney from an infected donor, reports The Boston Globe.
The kidney was infected with a hard-to-detect virus, health officials said, which came from a 49-year-old homeless man who suffered irreversible brain damage and cardiac arrest.
The donor carried a germ called lymphocytic choriomenigitis virus, which is most often transmitted by rodents and usually unnoticed by healthy people who do not suffer anything more than flu-like symptoms, according to the newspaper.
The virus also killed three transplants patients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 2005.
Organs perish quickly and they are tested for diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis and herpes, but not usually viruses such as lymphocytic choriomenigitis. And, since the demand for organs is so great, recipients will often take the organs of homeless people, the newspaper said.
“People are literally dying for organs,” said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, a top disease tracker at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “The list of potential things you can test for is enormous. But, balancing that against the risk of not getting the organs, you have to make some decisions about what’s feasible and what’s not feasible to test for.”
The homeless donor died in mid-March, according to the newspaper.
Doctors took his viable organs after his family authorized the removal. He had been tested for AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and other diseases regularly checked by the New England Organ Bank, the region's organ procurement agency, but there was no evidence of worrisome infections.