A woman in Michigan contracted COVID-19 and died after receiving an infected double-lung transplant from a donor, according to multiple news reports.
Officials at the University of Michigan Medical School suggested it may be the first proven case of COVID-19 in the U.S. in which the virus was transmitted via an organ transplant. A surgeon who handled the donor lungs was also infected with the virus and fell ill but later recovered.
The incident appears to be isolated — the only confirmed case among nearly 40,000 transplants in 2020. But it has led to calls for more thorough testing of lung transplant donors, with samples taken from deep within the donor lungs as well as the nose and throat, said Dr. Daniel Kaul, director of Michigan Medicine’s transplant infectious disease service.
“We would absolutely not have used the lungs if we’d had a positive COVID test,” said Kaul, who co-authored a report about the case in the American Journal of Transplantation.
The virus was transmitted when lungs from a woman from the Upper Midwest, who died after suffering a severe brain injury in a car accident, were transplanted into a woman with chronic obstructive lung disease at University Hospital in Ann Arbor. The nose and throat samples routinely collected from both organ donors and recipients tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.