Organ Transplant Patient Dies After Receiving COVID-Infected Lungs

By Bill Galluccio

February 21, 2021

An organ transplant patient died two months after receiving a new lung that was infected with COVID-19. Doctors tested nose and throat samples from both the deceased donor and the recipient before the surgery, and the tests came back negative.

"We would absolutely 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, wrote in the American Journal of Transplantation. "All the screening that we normally do and are able to do, we did."

A few days after the surgery, the patient, a woman from Michigan who suffered from chronic obstructive lung disease, developed a fever, and doctors determined she had a lung infection. Her condition continued to worsen, and she developed septic shock. When doctors tested her for COVID-19, they were shocked to find the virus in her lungs. Doctors did their best to treat the woman, but after 61 days, she died from the viral infection.

Doctors began trying to figure out how the woman contracted COVID-19. They tested fluid samples from deep in the donor's lungs that were taken before the surgery, which came back positive for COVID-19. They then performed genetic screening and determined that the donor had been infected with the same strain of the coronavirus.

The surgeon who performed the surgery also contracted COVID-19 but has since recovered.

Photo: Getty Images

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