In the last post we discussed a New York City patient who contracted AIDS through a kidney transplant. Although the donor had been tested for HIV before the surgery, the testing took place nearly three months prior to the actual transplant. During that time, the donor had unprotected sex and contracted HIV.
This is the first reported case of a patient who has been infected with HIV from an organ transplant, but CDC officials admit that they think there may be other unreported cases. They suspect other individuals have learned they had HIV but failed to make the connection to the organ transplant. As long as healthcare professionals are negligent in completing the proper testing prior to surgery, organ recipients will be at risk.
Historically, transplant organizations focused on screening organs taken from deceased individuals, because that comprised the majority of transplants. However, as the number of organs provided by living donors increased, transplant organizations failed to modify their testing processes appropriately.
Individuals that are interested in donating organs are evaluated by doctors who look for both physical and psychological red flags. Because many donors assume they will be tested for every type of infection, they do not always admit to behavior that could increase their risks of contracting HIV. Some people are embarrassed to admit to things such as unprotected sex or drug use.
In addition, the tests that are currently used to detect HIV are not the most up-to-date tests; they don’t detect HIV antibodies until three to eight weeks after infection. A newer test was developed in the 1990s, which can detect HIV antibodies within 10 days after a person is infected.
There are a number of factors that could help ensure the New York City patient who was infected is the last case we hear about. However, in order for that to happen, it is critical that transplant organizations and hospitals be more vigilant in their testing.
Source: stltoday.com, “Transplant patient got AIDS from new kidney,” Associated Press, 17 March 2011s