Published on September 15, 2010 at 10:44 PM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
After the death of three organ transplant recipients, a Victorian coroner will examine if it is possible to screen for a particular virus before donation.
These three deaths were of women who received kidneys and a liver from the same organ donor three years ago. Deaths were of arenavirus, a recently detected strain. Arenavirus is a rodent virus that occasionally infects humans. Arenavirus is usually a non-fatal virus, but is a significant risk factor for people who already have compromised health and immune systems, such as people who are waiting for transplants. It was identified in two separate clusters of deaths in the US in 2003 and 2005, which were also transplant-related cases.
A common donor to these patients, Jovo Vranjesevic, 57, died after a cerebral haemorrhage in late 2006 at Dandenong Hospital after recently returning to Australia from Europe. His liver and two kidneys were transplanted to three women - Gurpal Sandhu, 64, who received the liver, and Karen Wilkinson, 44, and Carmellina Sirianni, 63. These women died in the first week of January 2007.
The court and coroner Audrey Jamieson will now examine whether arenavirus can be adequately screened for before organ donation, as well as other concerns. It has been assumed that Mr Vranjesevic was carrying the infection. Ms Jamieson said she was not aware of any other cases of arenavirus in organ donors or recipients since the three 2007 deaths.
The inquest, which is to be held next year, will also examine the communication between various hospitals when the recipients started becoming unwell, she said. The issue of informed consent from donor families about the health of the donor prior to the harvesting of organs will be investigated at the inquest. There had been no further deaths from the virus since 2007.
The inquest is due to begin on March 2, 2011.