Man Dies of Rabies from Kidney Transplant

One organ transplant recipient died of rabies from kidney transplant. Organ transplants are more common in today’s world and are life saving , but there are many risks , but some are highly unusual. A retired army veteran from Maryland died February 27, 2013 and the cause was of rabies that he contracted from a kidney carrying rabies. He received the kidney in a transplant operation one-and-half years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 20 year old airman that donated the kidney was training to be an aviation mechanic in Pensacola and died in 2011. The patient had no known contact with animals; the usual way rabies is transmitted. This type of rabies is spread by racoons.

One kidney transplant patient dies of rabies

The Maryland man and the other people – in Florida, Georgia and Illinois – received organs from the 20-year old airman. The other three recipients are not showing any signs of rabies, but are receiving 5 doses of the rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulins, which give the body antibodies to protect itself against the rabies virus. The three other recipients are being tested , and health officials are looking for family members or health care providers that may have worked or lived with the recipient that died, or the donor to determine if they also have the illness, CDC spokesowman, Melissa Dankel, said. The only other United States outbreak of rabies among organ recipients had the four patients dying within a month of the transplant in 2004.

Rabies is very rare in people. There are only between one and three yearly cases across the country, so organ donors are not usually tested for the disease, even if they show signs. Another common concern is that many lifesaving organs might not be usable if donors were routinely tested for rabies. It would take two to three days to get test results. Sometimes patients waiting for organs, such as heart or liver, might die quickly without a transplant , and that can be the only organ available is in a case where the donor had encephalitis and the cause has not been determined. It’s for patients who might choose to take this organ, as well as their families that should be completely informed before determining that the risk is worth it.

Doctors, in this case, were aware of the donor’s case of encephalitis, which is when the brain is inflammed, when they decided to harvest the organs anyway. Despite these symptoms, there was never a rabies test done prior to the donor’s kidneys, heart and liver being delivered for transplantation in September of 2011, the CDC stated. At least one transplant surgeon in the United States will not take organs when the donor has died of encephalitis of unknown origin.


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Written by Lisa Cramer

Lisa Cramer is a newbie writer that is on the verge of becoming a very talented journalist. Her passion for writing has always been kindred to her heart. But, her recent career change in the medical field has led her to us. And now finally she is pursuing her deepest passion of covering health news, and advancing as a professional journalist. She is ecstatic about being a part of and will make it her mission to provide readers on the site with “real facts” and deep insight into the latest breaking health news around the world. Contact Lisa at

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