A woman in Michigan, United States, died shortly after contracting COVID-19. But this death has a very surprising cause. She would have been infected during a lung transplant sometime in autumn. A strange story which was told a few days ago by the doctors who took care of the patient.
The first American case of donor-to-recipient transmission
Surgeons explain that the patient received a transplant of two lungs from a woman who died of a serious brain injury after a car accident. To avoid taking any chances in these pandemic-heavy times, a COVID test was carried out on samples taken from the victim's nose and throat, but these turned out to be negative.
And yet the organ recipient was indeed contaminated. Three days following the operation, she contracted several symptoms: fever, drop in blood pressure, breathing problems... Her health gradually deteriorated and she died 61 days after the operation, despite several treatment attempts, including remdesivir.
Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Medicine believe it is the first American case of contamination through organ transplant. A obviously isolated case because out of the nearly 40,000 other transplants performed in the United States in 2020, nothing of the sort has been observed.
The surgeon was also infected
Doctors turned to other carefully preserved samples which, this time, were found to be positive for COVID-19. Dr. Daniel Kaul, director of Michigan Medicine's infectious disease transplant service and co-author of the study on the case, defended the hospital. He explains in comments cited by NBC News:
We absolutely would not have used the lungs if we had got positive tests for COVID.
Four days after the operation, the surgeon who handled the donor"s lungs tested positive. Genetic testing shows that he was indeed infected during the transplant. This shows that contamination during transplantation is possible, although it remains very rare. Studies will be carried out to find out if it only lung transplants are at risk, or if other organs can also transmit the virus in this way.