Transplantation of organs from deceased COVID-19 patients is safe and possible. Here's how
Using organs obtained from deceased donors who tested positive for Covid, researchers at Duke University in the US analysed six abdominal organ transplants performed in four recipients
In a study, it was found that organ donation from dying donors who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 is safe and does not cause COVID-19 in the patient receiving the organ donation.
The Covid pandemic resulted in increased organ disposal rates because of unclear risks associated with the use of organs from COVID-19-infected donors, causing the shortage of abdominal organs for donation.
Using organs obtained from deceased donors who tested positive for Covid, researchers at Duke University in the US analysed six abdominal organ transplants performed in four recipients (2 livers, 2 kidneys and pancreas combined).
During the donor evaluation protocol, all four donors were subjected to microscopic and/or macroscopic biopsy reviews to confirm that their organs were suitable for transplant.
Organ type, duration and severity of COVID-19 sickness, possible signs of hypercoagulable disease (meaning an increase in clotting in donated organs and vessels) and a careful overall inspection were all factors taken into account when assessing organ donors.
Furthermore, lung or intestine donations were only considered if the donor had tested positive for Covid more than 20 days ago, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) infection control practices.
The team explained that if the virus was found in the base of the lungs, the lungs would be unsuitable for transplantation, but other organs could still be transplanted safely, provided the donor wasn't suffering from severe hyperinflammatory COVID-19 or had abnormal clotting patterns.
Are there any other things that need to be taken into consideration?
After passing all these hoops, doctors must still consider a donor's final cause of death to determine whether it may negatively affect organ quality and/or surgical risk, they said.
Additionally, recipients are highly advised to get fully vaccinated with COVID-19 prior to surgery to reduce transplant risk.
"Being unvaccinated can increase the risk of severe COVID-19 in transplanted patients due to their immunosuppression drugs post-transplant. For that reason, we strongly encourage our patients on the waiting list to get vaccinated. However, being unvaccinated does not take someone off the organ transplant waiting list at our institution at this time," said Dr Emily Eichenberger from the University`s School of Medicine.
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It is also desirable that the donor be vaccinated, as this may reduce the risk of severe organ inflammation. However, a donor's unknown or negative vaccination status would not preclude the use of otherwise good quality organs from a Covid-19-infected donor.
"While limited, our experience to date supports the use of abdominal organs from COVID-19 positive donors as safe and effective, even those actively infected, or with lung disease caused by COVID-19," Eichenberger said.
A presentation of the research will be made at this year's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, taking place in Lisbon in April.
(With inputs from agencies)