Tagged Michigan

Paciente de transplante muere después de recibir pulmones infectados con covid

Médicos dicen que una mujer en Michigan desarrolló covid-19 y murió el otoño pasado, dos meses después de recibir un trasplante doble de pulmón de un donante que portaba el coronavirus que causa la enfermedad, a pesar de que no mostró signos de la enfermedad y que inicialmente dio negativo.

Autoridades de la Escuela de Medicina de la Universidad de Michigan sugirieron que podría ser el primer caso comprobado en el país de covid en el que el virus se transmitió a través de un trasplante de órganos. Un cirujano que manipuló los pulmones del donante también se infectó y se enfermó, pero luego se recuperó.

El incidente parece ser aislado, el único caso confirmado entre casi 40,000 trasplantes realizados en 2020. Pero ha generado el pedido de que se hagan pruebas más exhaustivas a los donantes, con muestras tomadas de las profundidades de los pulmones, así como de la nariz y la garganta, dijo el doctor Daniel Kaul, director del servicio de trasplantes de enfermedades infecciosas de Michigan Medicine.

“No hubiéramos usado los pulmones si hubiéramos tenido una prueba de covid positiva”, dijo Kaul, coautor de un informe sobre el caso en el American Journal of Transplantation.

El virus se transmitió cuando los pulmones de una mujer de la zona centrooeste del país, que murió después de sufrir una lesión cerebral grave en un accidente automovilístico, fueron implantados en una mujer con enfermedad pulmonar obstructiva crónica en el Hospital Universitario de Ann Arbor.

Las muestras de nariz y garganta recolectadas de forma rutinaria tanto de donantes como de receptores de órganos habían dado negativo para SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa covid.

“Todos los exámenes que normalmente hacemos y podemos hacer, los hicimos”, dijo Kaul.

Sin embargo, tres días después de la operación, la receptora tuvo fiebre; su presión arterial bajó y su respiración se volvió dificultosa. Las radiografías mostraron signos de infección pulmonar.

A medida que su condición empeoraba, la paciente desarrolló un shock séptico y problemas de función cardíaca. Los médicos decidieron realizar la prueba para SARS-CoV-2, dijo Kaul. Las muestras de sus nuevos pulmones dieron positivo.

Sospechando el origen de la infección, los médicos regresaron a las muestras de la donante. Una prueba molecular de un hisopo de la nariz y la garganta de la donante, tomada 48 horas después de extraer los pulmones, resultó negativa para SARS-Cov-2. La familia de la donante les dijo a los médicos que no tenía antecedentes de viajes recientes o síntomas de covid, y que no había tenido una exposición conocida a nadie con la enfermedad.

Pero los médicos habían conservado una muestra de líquido tomada de lo más profundo de los pulmones de la donante. Cuando analizaron ese líquido, resultó positivo para el virus. Cuatro días después del trasplante, el cirujano que manipuló los pulmones y realizó la cirugía también dio positivo.

El examen genético reveló que la donante había infectado a la receptora del trasplante y al cirujano. Otros diez miembros del equipo de trasplantes dieron negativo para el virus.

La salud de la receptora del transplante se deterioró rápidamente y desarrolló una falla orgánica multisistémica. Los médicos probaron tratamientos conocidos para covid, incluido remdesivir, un medicamento recientemente aprobado, y plasma sanguíneo convaleciente de personas previamente infectadas.

Finalmente, tuvo respiración extracorpórea con la opción conocido como ECMO, un último recurso para mantener viva a una persona, sin éxito. Fue desconectada y falleció, 61 días después del trasplante.

Kaul calificó al incidente como “un caso trágico”.

Si bien el caso de Michigan marca el primer incidente confirmado en los Estados Unidos de transmisión a través de un transplante, se sospecha de otros.

Un informe reciente de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) revisó ocho posibles casos de lo que se conoce como infección derivada de donantes que ocurrieron la primavera pasada, pero concluyó que la fuente más probable de transmisión del virus en esos casos estaba en la comunidad o en el entorno de atención médica.

Antes de este incidente, no estaba claro si el coronavirus que causa covid podría transmitirse a través de trasplantes de órganos sólidos, aunque es algo que está bien documentado con otros virus respiratorios. La transmisión por donantes de la influenza pandémica H1N1 de 2009 se ha detectado casi exclusivamente en receptores de trasplantes de pulmón, apuntó Kaul.

Si bien no es sorprendente que el SARS-CoV-2 pueda transmitirse a través de los pulmones infectados, no se sabe todavía si otros órganos afectados por covid (corazones, hígados y riñones) también puedan transmitir el virus.

“Parece que para los donantes que no son de pulmón puede ser muy difícil transmitir covid, incluso si el donante tiene covid”, dijo Kaul.

Los donantes de órganos han sido analizados de forma rutinaria para SARS-CoV-2 durante la pandemia, aunque no es un requisito de la Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), que supervisa los trasplantes en todo el país. Pero el caso de Michigan subraya la necesidad de pruebas más extensas antes del trasplante, especialmente en áreas con altas tasas de transmisión de covid, dijo Kaul.

Cuando se trata de pulmones, eso significa asegurarse de analizar muestras del tracto respiratorio inferior del donante, así como de la nariz y la garganta. Obtener y analizar estas muestras de donantes puede ser difícil de realizar en una urgencia. También existe el riesgo de introducir una infección en los pulmones donados, explicó Kaul.

Debido a que no se utilizaron otros órganos además de los pulmones, el caso de Michigan no brinda información sobre los protocolos de prueba para otros órganos.

En general, las transmisiones virales de los donantes de órganos a los receptores siguen siendo raras y ocurren en menos del 1% de los receptores de trasplantes, según muestran investigaciones. Los riesgos médicos que enfrentan los pacientes enfermos que rechazan un órgano de un donante son generalmente mucho más altos, dijo el doctor David Klassen, director médico de United Network for Organ Sharing, el contratista federal que administra la OPTN.

“Los riesgos de frenar los trasplantes son catastróficos”, dijo. “No creo que los pacientes deban tener miedo al proceso de transplante”.

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Organ Transplant Patient Dies After Receiving Covid-Infected Lungs

Doctors say a woman in Michigan contracted covid-19 and died last fall two months after receiving a tainted double-lung transplant from a donor who turned out to harbor the virus that causes the disease — despite showing no signs of illness and initially testing negative.

Officials at the University of Michigan Medical School suggested it may be the first proven case of covid in the U.S. in which the virus was transmitted via an organ transplant. A surgeon who handled the donor lungs was also infected with the virus and fell ill but later recovered.

The incident appears to be isolated — the only confirmed case among nearly 40,000 transplants in 2020. But it has led to calls for more thorough testing of lung transplant donors, with samples taken from deep within the donor lungs as well as the nose and throat, said Dr. Daniel Kaul, director of Michigan Medicine’s transplant infectious disease service.

“We would absolutely not have used the lungs if we’d had a positive covid test,” said Kaul, who co-authored a report about the case in the American Journal of Transplantation.

The virus was transmitted when lungs from a woman from the Upper Midwest, who died after suffering a severe brain injury in a car accident, were transplanted into a woman with chronic obstructive lung disease at University Hospital in Ann Arbor. The nose and throat samples routinely collected from both organ donors and recipients tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid.

“All the screening that we normally do and are able to do, we did,” Kaul said.

Three days after the operation, however, the recipient spiked a fever; her blood pressure fell and her breathing became labored. Imaging showed signs of lung infection.

As her condition worsened, the patient developed septic shock and heart function problems. Doctors decided to test for SARS-CoV-2, Kaul said. Samples from her new lungs came back positive.

Suspicious about the origin of the infection, doctors returned to samples from the transplant donor. A molecular test of a swab from the donor’s nose and throat, taken 48 hours after her lungs were procured, had been negative for SARS-Cov-2. The donor’s family told doctors she had no history of recent travel or covid symptoms and no known exposure to anyone with the disease.

But doctors had kept a sample of fluid washed from deep within the donor lungs. When they tested that fluid, it was positive for the virus. Four days after the transplant, the surgeon who handled the donor lungs and performed the surgery tested positive, too. Genetic screening revealed that the transplant recipient and the surgeon had been infected by the donor. Ten other members of the transplant team tested negative for the virus.

The transplant recipient deteriorated rapidly, developing multisystem organ failure. Doctors tried known treatments for covid, including remdesivir, a newly approved drug, and convalescent blood plasma from people previously infected with the disease. Eventually, she was placed on the last-resort option of ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, to no avail. Life support was withdrawn, and she died 61 days after the transplant.

Kaul called the incident “a tragic case.”

While the Michigan case marks the first confirmed incident in the U.S. of transmission through a transplant, others have been suspected. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report reviewed eight possible cases of what’s known as donor-derived infection that occurred last spring, but concluded the most likely source of transmission of the covid virus in those cases was in a community or health care setting.

Before this incident, it was not clear whether the covid virus could be transmitted through solid organ transplants, though it’s well documented with other respiratory viruses. Donor transmission of H1N1 2009 pandemic influenza has been detected almost exclusively in lung transplant recipients, Kaul noted.

While it’s not surprising that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted through infected lungs, it remains uncertain whether other organs affected by covid — hearts, livers and kidneys, for instance — can transmit the virus, too.

“It seems for non-lung donors that it may be very difficult to transmit covid, even if the donor has covid,” Kaul said.

Organ donors have been tested routinely for SARS-CoV-2 during the pandemic, though it’s not required by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, or OPTN, which oversees transplants in the U.S. But the Michigan case underscores the need for more extensive sampling before transplant, especially in areas with high rates of covid transmission, Kaul said.

When it comes to lungs, that means making sure to test samples from the donor’s lower respiratory tract, as well as from the nose and throat. Obtaining and testing such samples from donors can be difficult to carry out in a timely fashion. There’s also the risk of introducing infection into the donated lungs, Kaul said.

Because no organs other than lungs were used, the Michigan case doesn’t provide insight into testing protocols for other organs.

Overall, viral transmissions from organ donors to recipients remain rare, occurring in fewer than 1% of transplant recipients, research shows. The medical risks facing ailing patients who reject a donor organ are generally far higher, said Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer with the United Network for Organ Sharing, the federal contractor that runs the OPTN.

“The risks of turning down transplants are catastrophic,” he said. “I don’t think patients should be afraid of the transplant process.”

He Was Hospitalized for Covid-19. Then Hospitalized Again. And Again.

Credit…Emily Rose Bennett for The New York Times

He Was Hospitalized for Covid-19. Then Hospitalized Again. And Again.

Significant numbers of coronavirus patients experience long-term symptoms that send them back to the hospital, taxing an already overburdened health system.

Credit…Emily Rose Bennett for The New York Times

Pam Belluck

  • Dec. 30, 2020, 3:00 a.m. ET

The routine things in Chris Long’s life used to include biking 30 miles three times a week and taking courses toward a Ph.D. in eight-week sessions.

But since getting sick with the coronavirus in March, Mr. Long, 54, has fallen into a distressing new cycle — one that so far has landed him in the hospital seven times.

Periodically since his initial five-day hospitalization, his lungs begin filling again; he starts coughing uncontrollably and runs a low fever. Roughly 18 days later, he spews up greenish-yellow fluid, signaling yet another bout of pneumonia.

Soon, his oxygen levels drop and his heart rate accelerates to compensate, sending him to a hospital near his home in Clarkston, Mich., for several days, sometimes in intensive care.

“This will never go away,” he said, describing his worst fear. “This will be my going-forward for the foreseeable future.”

Nearly a year into the pandemic, it’s clear that recovering from Covid-19’s initial onslaught can be an arduous, uneven journey. Now, studies reveal that a significant subset of patients are having to return to hospitals, sometimes repeatedly, with complications triggered by the disease or by the body’s efforts to defeat the virus.

Even as vaccines give hope for stopping the spread of the virus, the surge of new cases portends repeated hospitalizations for more patients, taxing medical resources and turning some people’s path to recovery into a Sisyphean odyssey that upends their lives.

“It’s an urgent medical and public health question,” said Dr. Girish Nadkarni, an assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who, with another assistant professor, Dr. Anuradha Lala, is studying readmissions of Covid-19 patients.

Data on rehospitalizations of coronavirus patients are incomplete, but early studies suggest that in the United States alone, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands could ultimately return to the hospital.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 106,543 coronavirus patients initially hospitalized between March and July found that one in 11 was readmitted within two months of being discharged, with 1.6 percent of patients readmitted more than once.

In another study of 1,775 coronavirus patients discharged from 132 V.A. hospitals in the pandemic’s early months, nearly a fifth were rehospitalized within 60 days. More than 22 percent of them needed intensive care, and 7 percent required ventilators.

And in a report on 1,250 patients discharged from 38 Michigan hospitals from mid-March to July, 15 percent were rehospitalized within 60 days.

Recurring admissions don’t just involve patients who were severely ill the first time around.

“Even if they had a very mild course, at least one-third have significant symptomology two to three months out,” said Dr. Eleftherios Mylonakis, chief of infectious diseases at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and Lifespan hospitals, who co-wrote another report. “There is a wave of readmissions that is building, because at some point these people will say ‘I’m not well.’”

Many who are rehospitalized were vulnerable to serious symptoms because they were over 65 or had chronic conditions. But some younger and previously healthy people have returned to hospitals, too.

When Becca Meyer, 31, of Paw Paw, Mich., contracted the coronavirus in early March, she initially stayed home, nursing symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, fever, extreme fatigue and hallucinations that included visions of being attacked by a sponge in the shower.

Ms. Meyer, a mother of four, eventually was hospitalized for a week in March and again in April. She was readmitted for an infection in August and for severe nausea in September, according to medical records, which labeled her condition “long haul Covid-19.”

Because she couldn’t hold down food, doctors discharged her with a nasal feeding tube connected to protein-and-electrolyte formula on a pole, which, she said, “I’m supposed to be attached to 20 hours a day.”

Feeding tube issues required hospitalization for nearly three weeks in October and a week in December. She has been unable to resume her job in customer service, spent the summer using a walker, and has had a home health nurse for weeks.

“It’s been a roller coaster since March and I’m now in the downswing of it, where I’m back to being in bed all the time and not being able to eat much, coughing a lot more, having more chest pain,” she said.

Readmissions strain hospital resources, and returning patients may be exposed to new infections or develop muscle atrophy from being bedridden. Mr. Long and Ms. Meyer said they contracted the bacterial infection C. difficile during rehospitalizations.

“Readmissions have been associated, even before Covid, with worse patient outcomes,” Dr. Mylonakis said.

Some research suggests implications for hospitals currently overwhelmed with cases. A Mount Sinai Hospital study of New York’s first wave found that patients with shorter initial stays and those not sick enough for intensive care were more likely to return within two weeks.

Dr. Lala, who co-wrote the study, said the thinking at overstretched hospitals was “we have a lack of resources, so if the patients are stable get them home.” But, she added, “the fact that length of stay was indeed shorter for those patients who return is begging the question of: Were we kicking these people out the door too soon?”

Many rehospitalized patients have respiratory problems, but some have blood clots, heart trouble, sepsis, gastrointestinal symptoms or other issues, doctors report. Some have neurological symptoms like brain fog, “a clear cognitive issue that is evident when they get readmitted,” said Dr. Vineet Chopra, chief of hospital medicine at the University of Michigan, who co-wrote the Michigan study. “It is there, and it is real.”

Dr. Laurie Jacobs, chairwoman of internal medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center, said causes of readmissions vary.

“Sometimes there’s a lot of push to get patients out of the hospital, and they want to get out of the hospital and sometimes they’re not ready,” so they return, she said. But some appropriately discharged patients develop additional problems or return to hospitals because they lack affordable outpatient care.

Antibiotics and other medications belonging to Mr. Long.
Antibiotics and other medications belonging to Mr. Long.Credit…Emily Rose Bennett for The New York Times

Mr. Long’s ordeal began on March 9. “I couldn’t stand up without falling over,” he said.

His primary physician, Dr. Benjamin Diaczok, immediately told him to call an ambulance.

“I crawled out to the front door,” recalled Mr. Long. He was barefoot and remembers sticking out his arm to prop open the door for the ambulance crew, who found him facedown.

He awoke three days later, in the hospital, when he accidentally pulled out the tubes to the ventilator he’d been hooked up to. After two more days, he’d stabilized enough to return to the apartment where he lives alone, an hour north of Detroit.

Mr. Long had some previous health issues, including blood clots in his lungs and legs several years ago and an irregular heartbeat requiring an implanted heart monitor in 2018. Still, before Covid-19, he was “very high-functioning, very energetic,” Dr. Diaczok said.

Now, Mr. Long said: “I’ve got scarred lungs, pulmonary fibrosis, and I’m running right around 75-to-80 percent lung capacity.”

He was rehospitalized in April, May, June, July, August and September, requiring oxygen and intravenous antibiotics, potassium and magnesium.

“Something must have happened to his lungs that is making them more prone for this,” Dr. Diaczok said.

Mr. Long, a former consultant on tank systems for the military, is also experiencing brain fog that’s forced a hiatus from classes toward a Ph.D. in business convergence strategy.

“I read 10 pages in one of my textbooks and then five minutes later, after a phone call, I can’t remember what I read,” he said.

“It’s horrible, ”Dr. Diaczok said. “This is a man that thinks for a living, and he can’t do his job.”

And his heart arrhythmia, controlled since 2018, has resurfaced. Unless Mr. Long, who is 6-foot-7, sleeps at an incline on his couch, his heart skips beats, causing his monitor to prompt middle-of-the-night calls from his doctor’s office. Unable to lie in bed, “I don’t sleep through the night.”

Small exertions — “just to stand up to go do the dishes” — are exhausting. In July, he tried starting physical therapy but was told he wasn’t ready.

In August, he got up too fast, fell and “I was very confused,” he recalled. During that hospital readmission, doctors noted “altered mental status” from dehydration and treated him for pneumonia and functional lung collapse.

In late October, Mr. Long developed pneumonia again, but under Dr. Diaczok’s guidance, managed at home with high-dose oral antibiotics.

In December, when a pulmonologist administered a breathing test, “I couldn’t make it six seconds,” he said.

Mr. Long repeatedly measures his temperature and pulse oxygen, and can feel in his chest when “trouble’s coming,” he said. Determined to recover, he tries to walk short distances. “Can I make it to take out the trash?” he’ll ask himself. On a good day, he’ll walk eight feet to his mailbox.

“I’m going to be around to walk my daughters down the aisle and see my grandkids,” said Mr. Long, voice cracking. “I’m not going to let this thing win.”