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Transplant recipient dies after getting lungs infected with COVID-19

A Michigan transplant patient died after receiving a pair of lungs from someone who was infected with COVID-19, the Washington Post reports.

Last fall, the woman underwent surgery for a double-lung transplant. Three days after her surgery, the woman had developed pneumonia and started exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus, including a high fever and difficulty breathing.

It was later determined that the woman, who died as a result of the virus three months later, had developed COVID-19 from her lung transplant.

The Post reports that both the transplant recipient and donor had tested negative for the virus within 12-48 hours of the surgery. The donor’s lungs did not show any sign of infection, and the donor’s family said the woman had no history of travel or symptoms.

The cases were confirmed when fluid samples of the lungs taken before and after the surgery were tested.

Daniel Kaul, the woman’s doctor and director of Michigan Medicine’s transplant infectious-disease service, said incidents like this can happen but are very rare.

“This is at least the first proven case of transmission of COVID-19 via organ transplantation in the United States,” Kaul told The Washington Post.

He published his findings not to scare people from getting organ transplants, but to raise awareness for the need for stringent testing, he said.

“The reason that we chose to report this is that we think it’s really important people in the transplant community are aware of this transmission so that we can work to have a system where lower [respiratory] tract specimen are checked on all lung donors.”

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