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Patient Dies of Rabies After Receiving Infected Organ Transplant

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In a rare occurrence, a Maryland transplant patient died of Rabies after receiving a kidney from an organ donor infected with the disease. Doctors did not bother to test for the disease because it is so uncommon in humans, but three other patients who also received some of the man's organs are being treated for Rabies to prevent any complications.

Infections caused by transplants are extremely rare with less than 1% of deceased donors having infected recipients. Doctors thoroughly test for HIV and hepatitis, but do not typically test for Rabies because it is so rare. It is impossible to test for every infection and doctors must walk a fine line when deciding what to test for since organs are hard to come by and deteriorate quickly.

The incident also brings up an important dilemma in organ transplants; whether to accept organs from individuals who die from unclear neurological disorders. The infected donor in this case apparently had swelling of the brain at the time of death, a possible sign of Rabies, but was not tested for the infection because of the time it would take and the rarity of the illness. This is the second time that someone in the U.S. has died of a Rabies infection after receiving an organ donation. In 2004, three people died after receiving Rabies-infected organs from a donor in Texas. The Centers for Disease Control say that is the first time that Rabies was transmitted through a solid organ donation, although it has been transmitted through cornea transplants.