CDC: Rare infection passed on by Miss. organ donor

Dec 19, 2009 By HOLBROOK MOHR , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- An extremely rare infection has been passed from an organ donor to at least one recipient in what is thought to be the first human-to-human transfer of the amoeba, medical officials said Friday.

Four people in three states received organs from a patient who died at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in November after suffering from neurological problems, said Dave Daigle, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention.

Organs are routinely tested for HIV, hepatitis and other more common infections, but occasionally rare ones slip through.

"We test for the known harmful diseases, but there's not a test for every single pathogen out there," said Dr. Kenneth Kokko, medical director of kidney transplants at UMMC.

Two of the recipients are critically ill, but the others haven't shown symptoms, Daigle said. The CDC confirmed the presence of the organism, known as Balamuthia mandrillaris, in one of the recipients.

Dr. Shirley Schlessinger, a UMMC doctor and medical director of the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, would not say which states had patients receiving the organs.

The public should not be concerned, both Schlessinger and Daigle said.

Balamuthia mandrillaris is a microscopic parasite found in soil that causes encephalitis in humans, horses, dogs, sheep and nonhuman primates. Scientists think people get infected by breathing it in, but it can also pass into the blood through a cut or break in the skin. It can be especially dangerous to people undergoing organ transplants, whose immune systems are purposely weakened so their bodies don't reject their new organs.

Human infections are very rare: Only about 150 cases have been reported worldwide since the disease was first identified in 1990. But it can be hard to diagnose because few laboratories test for it and many doctors don't know about it. Some cases are not identified until autopsy, according to the CDC.

"The thing we don't want to happen is for people to take this rare and extraordinary anomaly and think it speaks to a lack of safety," she said. "It's very rare so the likelihood that this will happen again (is small), I mean, it's rarer than rabies."

There are risks to transplants and doctors can't test for everything, but the potential benefits far outweigh the risks, she said.

On the Net:

CDC details on Balamuthia mandrillaris: http://bit.ly/7swHMV
University of Mississippi Medical Center: http://www.umc.edu/

Explore further: Restrictions lifted at British bird flu farm

4.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Organ donor club grows, has critics

Jun 15, 2006

A new U.S.-based organ donor club has potential recipients anteing up their own organs for membership while doctors say the plan is unethical.

Rare 'domino' transplant preformed

Oct 03, 2006

U.S. transplant surgeons have performed a "domino" transplant procedure to save two patients suffering a life-threatening liver condition.

Spread unlikely after possible plague-linked death

Sep 21, 2009

(AP) -- There's no sign of any spread after the rare, possibly plague-related death of a University of Chicago scientist, public health officials said Monday as federal authorities flew in to help investigate.

Recommended for you

Restrictions lifted at British bird flu farm

4 hours ago

Britain on Sunday lifted all restrictions at a duck farm in northern England after last month's outbreak of H5N8 bird flu, the same strain seen in recent cases across Europe.

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

Dec 20, 2014

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

Dec 20, 2014

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.