Rabies-infected organs kill 3 patients

CNN.com – Rabies-infected organs kill 3 patients

Rabies spread by organs taken from an infected donor has killed three transplant recipients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

A fourth recipient died during the actual transplant operation, before there was time to develop the disease, officials said.

Rabies was also determined to be responsible for the death of the organ donor.

The unprecedented case began nearly two months ago, shortly after an Arkansas man suffered a brain hemorrhage and died at Christus Saint Michael Healthcare Center in Texarkana, Texas.

The man’s lungs, kidneys and liver were transplanted May 4.

The impact of the virus began to emerge within weeks.

The liver recipient died June 7; one kidney recipient died June 8 and the other kidney recipient died June 21. The patient who died was undergoing lung transplant surgery.

This is truly tragic, and will unfortunately be legal bait for a long time.

I suppose it’s not impossible for a person to have contracted rabies and have a stroke; rabies isn’t protective against other diseases. I wouldn’t even have considered testing potential donors for it, as it’d be an automatically exclusionary diagnosis, and I’m not certain if there even are any acute-phase rabies serologic tests (hard to develop and market tests for a disease that’s 100% fatal and has no effective treatment or cure).

Even if the transplant recipients had normal immune systems this would have overtaken them, and with their immune systems suppressed it’s possible nobody even knew what killed them (how did they make the diagnosis? It’s not stated here).

Just when you think you’ve heard it all.

cross posted at The Lingual Nerve

update: CDC on Rabies


  1. LibraryGryffon says:

    A few years back I read somewhere about someone who died of rabies. They tried to figure out how/when the person had been exposed and the best answer they could come up with was an animal bite from almost two years previously. I don’t know whether this is really the case, that rabies can take that long to manifest itself after exposure, but if so, it’s one more thing to worry about for our organ and blood donation system. (Though thankfully it’s a lot more rare than the other stuff we test for.)

  2. As a small kid in Tripoli, Libya in the 50’s I heard (literally) a man dying from rabies in the local charity hospital near my home.

    I thought death from rabies was a dramatic and easily recognizable??

  3. What has us worried in Little Rock it the fact that this patient contracted rabies somewhere in Arkansas. We are hoping this turns out to be an isolated case, but I am sure there is an active search to find to source animal(s). I have not heard of another case of rabies in Arkansas since I have been here (11 years). We do treat the occasional bat, racoon or other wild animal bite with rabies vaccine.

    I am sure the lawyers are already lined up and ready to blame this on someone.

  4. Well, they’re going to blame you or me, and since you’re in the right state, you’re it!