HIV-Positive Organs Transplant in Italy

Armen Hareyan's picture
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In February 2007, three patients received HIV-positive organs as a result of an error made in the documentation by an employee at the hospital in northern Italy where the organs had been taken for transplant. The person wrote "negative" instead of "positive" after reading the automatically generated print-out report of the results of laboratory analyses, including blood testing for HIV. The organ donor was a woman in her forties who died at home of a brain haemorrhage but had no clinical history of any diseases. After her death, the family had assented to organ and tissue donation not knowing that she had been HIV-positive. Three organs (two kidneys and a liver) were transplanted to three distinct recipients. The recipients were informed of the possibility of being infected with HIV on the same day that the donor's HIV status was revealed to the transplant organization network.

An international task-force comprised of leading experts in infectious diseases has since taken responsibility for the treatment of the three patients. While awaiting the results of the genotyping the patients received HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy) taking into account the existing risk of organ rejection. All three have since tested positive for HIV but the public health authorities stated that it would take about one year to be able to make a general commentary on their health condition. The accident, unprecedented in Italy's 40-year history of organ transplantation, was concluded to be entirely due to human error and negligence of procedures and guidelines. The Italian Ministry of Health, the National Transplant Centre and the regional authorities appointed a commission of experts to evaluate the accident, reassess the procedures and propose possible precautionary measures.

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