• Birmingham Hospital Conducts Kidney Transplant

Birmingham Hospital Conducts Kidney Transplant (Photo : Getty Images)

Kidney donations are supposed to extend the life of an organ recipient, but in the case of two Chinese men who underwent kidney transplant, because the donor had infection, it instead hastened rather than extend their lives.

The two recipients died of rabies, reported the LA Times. Their cases were discussed in an article in the latest issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, according to medical researchers from China.

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A 55-year-old Hebei man and a 43-year-old Liaoning man got last summer one kidney each from the cadaver of a 6-year-old boy who had undiagnosed encephalitis. The incident highlighted some of the cracks in China’s organ donation and transplant system, long characterized by anomalies amid reports of forced organ harvesting from prisoners, said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.

The kidney donor was from the poor Chinese province of Guangxi who had a fever on May 13, 2015. The fever worsened after two day, while the boy exhibited more symptoms of extreme irritability, screaming and slurred speech. Because his mouth foamed on the third day, the child was transferred to another hospital where he became comatose and died after 10 days.

Because the boy’s corpse tested negative for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis, doctors, who did not perform any autopsy on the child, cleared the kidney and cornea for transplantation. One of the child’s kidneys was transplanted to the Hebei man on May 27 in Beijing on May 27, 2015. In less than two months, he developed fever and mild abdominal distention. His condition further worsened when he lost his hearing and spoke incoherently.

Because of difficulty swallowing, doctors suspected rabies which turned out to be a correct diagnosis. But it was too late, because the man died on Aug. 23. The Liaoning man had the same symptoms and died earlier, on Aug. 17. Fortunately for the recipients of the boy’s corneas, they did not developed symptoms of rabies but were treated for the virus as precautionary measure.

Because the boy’s body was cremated after harvesting his kidneys and corneas, doctors could not definitively confirm the source of the infection.

In 2015, there were 7,785 organs that were transplanted across China with the surgeries done I 146 government-approved hospitals. A new report continues to cast doubt on the large number of transplant procedures done in China which far exceed the number of organs donated.