Kidney donations from deceased donors with COVID-19 are considered safe


Disclosures: Wee reports that he is on the Veloxis speakers bureau.

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According to data published in the Journal of Urology.

In a retrospective review, the Cleveland Clinic transplant team examined data from 55 patients who received kidney donation from 34 deceased donors with COVID-19 between February 2021 and October 2021. All donors were tested positive for COVID-19 within a median of 4 days after organ donation.

Quote from Alvin Wee, MD, MBA

Alvin Wee, MD, MBA, the program director for renal programs at the Cleveland Clinic.

Analyzes and follow-ups revealed that no kidney transplant recipients had contracted COVID-19 as a result of the transplant. The team concluded in this initial retrospective review that a kidney donation from a COVID-19 positive deceased donor is safe.

Healio interviewed the author of the study Alvin Wee, MD, MBA, the program director for renal programs at the Cleveland Clinic, to discuss the study results in more detail.

Helio: What prompted you and your team to conduct this research?

Pee: Despite the record number of transplants in 2021 here in the United States, there are still 90,000 people on the transplant list who need a kidney. As COVID-19 spreads, organ donations from this group of donors have been affected, as almost all organ procurement organizations here in the United States would move away from these cases. At Cleveland Clinic, we push the boundaries with one goal in mind: to help and provide the best care for our patients. As new patients were added to the waiting list and [COVID-19-positive deceased donor organs were being turned] far, the team has been keen to explore the use of kidneys with these types of donors. As we began to do so conservatively and modified our protocols as we gained more knowledge, we were inspired by the families of deceased donors who were grateful to be able to use the organs of their loved ones for help others. The families are very grateful that we were able to make sense of these senseless COVID-19 deaths. Overall, we sought to answer the question: Is accepting a kidney from a COVID-19 positive donor safe?

Healio: Can you describe the study?

Pee: We performed a retrospective review of 55 patients and 34 COVID-19 positive deceased donors. In this series, about two-thirds of the donors died from what was unrelated to COVID but tested positive for COVID-19, while the remaining donors died from COVID-19. All patients had good renal function. There was no difference in our management of postoperative immunosuppression. COVID-19 PCR tests were performed 7-10 days after transplantation.

Healio: What are the clinical results of this study?

None of the recipients contracted COVID-19 after receiving a kidney transplant from a donor who died positive for COVID-19. All functions of the kidney graft are excellent. We have a patient who died of his comorbidities. He never tested positive during the entire post-transplant follow-up.

Healio: Can other organs be transplanted, or just kidneys?

Pee: We also used livers from deceased COVID-19 donors. There are a few ratios of cores used.

Healio: If a recipient is infected with COVID after the transplant, will the infection be more severe than if the recipient received an organ from a deceased donor without COVID?

Pee: This will require further research. With this study, we focused on answering the question of whether or not the transplant would be as safe as a transplant from a healthy deceased donor.

Healio: Does this have an impact on the recipient’s vaccination process?

Pee: No. We encourage all immunocompromised patients to continue receiving the COVID-19 vaccines for which they are eligible. At the Cleveland Clinic, patients on the waitlist must be vaccinated. Receiving a kidney donation from a deceased COVID-19 positive donor does not change the vaccine recommendations established by the CDC.

Healio: What are the next steps in this research?

Pee: We conducted a follow-up study that included over 100 kidney transplant recipients who got their organ from a COVID-positive donor and compared them to recipients who did not. It was recently submitted for publication. One thing I can share is that the results are great and promising.

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