Late last year, we blogged about the transmission of Balamuthia mandrillaris from an organ donor with an undiagnosed encephalitis in Mississippi to 2 organ recipients (liver and kidney-pancreas) who subsequently developed encephalitis. One recipient died of encephalitis and the other survived with neurologic sequelae. These cases are described in the most recent MMWR. Then there was the report in Clinical Infectious Diseases of transmission of rabies to 2 organ recipients who died. Again the donor had an undiagnosed encephalitis. Seven other cases of transplant-associated rabies had been previously described. Now the Arizona Star and MMWR are reporting another cluster of two Balamuthia encephalitis cases who received organs from a 27-year old man who died of what was thought to be a stroke (no details on brain imaging are included in either report).
Several months ago, I argued that there should be an immediate ban on transplanting organs from donors with undiagnosed encephalitides (and I would now add other neurologic diseases without a confirmed diagnosis) in cases where transplantation is not immediately life-saving (e.g., cornea, kidney, intestine, pancreas, musculoskeletal grafts). And where transplantation is potentially immediately life-saving (e.g., heart, liver), full disclosure of the donor's diagnosis and its implications should be made available as part of the informed consent process. I was surprised that CDC did not make this recommendation earlier, and even more so after additional cases have been reported.