Mona Khanna, MD, MPH discusses how people are contracting diseases from donated organs.
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What’s new in organ donation is actually something that’s very unfortunate that’s recently happened. We just found out that a donor who is infected with HIV and Hepatitis C has by virtue of donating the organs past on those infections to the people that have receive organs. And unfortunately, you know we’ve got 10 to thousands of people on the waiting list for organs. Its so difficult to get them and something like this happens which makes everybody fearful of not only receiving organs but also donating them. What happen is the person who donated the organs was a male and he was screened for HIV, Hepatitis C. The standard screening that we do when somebody is willing to donate their organs which is very –. Unfortunately this person probably was infected with this particular illnesses shortly before he died and donated his organs. So the body didn’t have time enough to build up the anti-bodies in the system for which we test. For example, we do an HIV test, what are we looking for? We’re not looking for the virus, we’re looking for the anti-bodies that are own body will create against the virus. So this person was infected shortly before he died. The body did not have enough time to develop those antibodies. That’s what we looked for. We didn’t see them. We assumed it was safe than to transfer this organs to somebody else and unfortunately those recipient have now been diagnosed which HIV and Hepatitis C. Its very rare for patients to pass on infections through or donated organs. Unfortunately it has happened before. This is actually the first time in more than 20 years that we’ve seen HIV pass on the last case was in 1986. But in 2004, we actually saw situation where a patient who was infected with rabbis pass it on to 4 people who ultimately became infected and died. Another infectious disease, and that particular disease rabbis was not even screened for. In this case, we have somebody who we actually screened for HIV and Hepatitis C but his body hadn’t develop – yet develops the antibodies that we test for and therefore it was passed on. So the next thing you think of this is whoa, wait a minute. How can we actually do a better job of screening since that’s really the issue. Well, in one of the situations where the patient had contracted HIV and Hepatitis C, she was very angry because she had previously rejected another possible donor to donate organs to her and because of that person lifestyle. So then we have to take a step back and say, okay we’ve done all the screening test, we haven’t found any diseases. Let’s look at that person’s lifestyle. Does that person lifestyle put them at risk for any diseases that we possibly didn’t catch. And that was the key here. This person who received the organs wasn’t informed of the patients lifestyle and therefore you know it was a lifestyle that put him at risk for contracting this diseases. Well, unfortunately the situation in this country is that we have tens of thousands of people waiting –waiting desperately for organs. Some of them will die before they’re able to receive their organs and the process of donating organs unfortunately is a little bit complicated. You have to either state to your next of kin that you would like to donate your organs and which organs do you like to donate. Or you have to sign in some cards that are given up by some particular secretaries of states. That you are willing to be an organ donor even if you sign those cards though, your next of kin can still disputed. And say no, I would not like my relative’s organs to be given. That’s why its so important let your relatives know that you want to donate your organs, which organs do you want to donate and the fact that you’d be very comfortable possibly saving someone else’s life.
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