New concerns are surfacing regarding organ donations after a Michigan woman died after undergoing a double lung transplant, she’s the first known person to contract covid-19 from donor organs.
While considered extremely rare, it could have a chilling effect on the donor process, which has already been hit hard by the pandemic.
Bruce Nicely, the chief clinical officer of the Gift of Life Michigan, breaks down how it happened.
"All the testing that was readily available and recommended was done,” Nicely said. “That was a nasal pharyngeal swab on the donor. Prior to the recovery of the organs, those tests were negative."
What wasn't done and how the coronavirus went undetected before the transplant was a BAL specimen test.
“The BAL specimen is literally taken from the lower depths of the lungs, a tube is inserted into the airway and down into the lungs," Nicely said.
After the woman began showing symptoms, this test was done, and came back positive.
The good news is, Nicely said current evidence shows other organs, like kidneys and liver transplants, can still be conducted from a covid-positive donor. He said he knows at least one case of success.
"They knew the donor was positive and the transplanting centers and physicians looked at all the information, looked at the test results, weighed that against their recipients and decided to go ahead," he said.
What Nicely doesn't want is donors or recipients shying away from the process. He said what happened with the double lung transplant gone wrong is exceedingly rare.
"With a waiting list of 114,000 people for organs nationally, they don't get to go on pause just because there's a pandemic," he said.