Organ Donor Gives HIV to 4 Chicago Patients

Flaw in tests allowed disease to go undetected
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2007 1:07 PM CST
A high-risk organ donor who likely contracted HIV within the last three weeks of life has passed the virus on to four organ recipients. Doctors won't say how the donor died, citing medical privacy laws....   (ShutterStock)
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(Newser) – A flaw in HIV testing procedures led to the infection of four organ-transplant recipients in Chicago, the Tribune reports, the first such cases in more than 20 years. Follow-up tests were never performed, so the four are only now discovering their infections from the January transplants. The donor was flagged as high risk, but doctors decided the patients' need for organs outweighed HIV fears.

"It's a risk-versus-benefit calculation," said one expert. Officials stressed that transplants remain safe, with 400,000 disease-free procedures since 1985. Donors contracting HIV within 22 days of their deaths pass current tests. Newer procedures narrow that window, one doctor said, but “it's not 100 percent safe and it is never going to be.”