Many people think of organ transplants as one of the best medical discoveries. In many situations, that is exactly what they are. But they are also extremely complicated, and organ donors and recipients must be tested carefully to ensure their organs will be compatible with one another.
When there are mistakes in the testing or screening process, a doctor’s negligence can have fatal consequences. That is exactly what happened for one kidney transplant patient in New York City.
The person who donated the kidney had been tested for HIV. However, the testing took place 11 weeks before the transplant, and the donor had unprotected sex in the time leading to the transplant and contracted HIV.
Although donors are tested for diseases such as HIV, AIDS and hepatitis, there are not specific regulations regarding how soon that should be done before the surgery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that organ donors be tested for HIV early in the process and again a week before the surgery.
The doctor who oversees the tracking of HIV cases for the New York Health Department said that the most sensitive tests should be done as close to the time of the transplant as possible. While that certainly seems like common sense, it’s a wonder that one donor was tested almost three months before the surgery was scheduled. Preliminary tests are necessary, but verifying that information could prevent the wrongful death of individuals receiving transplants.
According to a report from the CDC, neither the donor nor the recipient knew they were infected with HIV until about a year after the transplant. At that point, the recipient developed AIDS. The doctors suspect the patient may have been more susceptible to AIDS because of drugs that were being administered to suppress his or her immune system to help prevent organ rejection.
Although this is the first reported case of a recipient being infected with HIV after a transplant from a live donor, CDC officials believe there could be other unreported cases. Read the next post to learn more information about the dangers of HIV with organ transplants, as well as the flaws with the current testing and screening processes.
Source: stltoday.com, “Transplant patient got AIDS from new kidney,” Associated Press, 17 March 2011s