Organ donation involves thorough processing to ensure that the donor is eligible and has healthy organs to donate to recipients. Apparently, that’s not what happened in Hong Kong where at least four recipients of donated organs reportedly now have hepatitis E.
A hospital reported that five of those patients received organs from the same donor in February. Organs donated, which include lungs, a heart, two kidneys and a liver, came from a 29-year-old female patient, who passed away that month at Princess Margaret Hospital, SCMP reports. It was stated that the woman’s family decided to donate the organs to a hospital.
This is the first case of its kind in Hong Kong.
The startling organ donation case was uncovered by the department of microbiology at Hong Kong University (UHK).
It was confirmed that four of the five recipients now have the infection.
Local news reported that the fifth patient received the lung but later died. However, it was reported that the reason for his demise may not have been caused by the hepatitis E infection.
Dr. Luk Che-chung, Queen Mary Hospital chief executive, said that the organs from the woman did not undergo testing for hepatitis E because the causative virus was considered rare in the city.
Hepatitis E is an inflammation of the liver caused by one of the five hepatitis viruses.
HEV is usually transmitted via the fecal-oral route.
While doctors say the viral infection is rare in Hong Kong, HEV is usually widespread in Southeast Asia, as well as India, Central America and Central Africa. People infected with this disease usually have access to contaminated food and water.
Following the incident, Queen Mary Hospital has informed the Hospital Authority and the Center for Health Protection. Staff members are now reaching out to patients involved and have provided treatment and assistance to them.
All four recipients were put on Ribavirin treatment.
UHK microbiology department professor Yuen Kwok-yung said that the antiviral medication Ribavirin is considered 80 percent effective against hepatitis E. Still, treatment will only prove to be useful depending on the patient’s genome, the professor explained.
Yuen added that there is no such requirement for donated organs to be tested for hepatitis E, not even in the U.S. or Australia. Only Britain conducts the test for the virus.
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