|Officials are investigating after a transplant recipient in Maryland died from a rabies-infected kidney. (Fotolia)
A Maryland transplant recipient died from a rabies-infected kidney that came from a donor in Florida who was not known to be carrying the virus, authorities said on Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said three other transplant patients who received organs from the same donor were under evaluation and receiving post-exposure treatment for rabies.
The transplant patient died in February of the viral infection, which attacks the central nervous system and brain, after receiving the kidney transplant more than a year ago.
CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said she did not know the precise date the Maryland transplant recipient died.
She said between one and three people a year in the United States die from rabies and called the death from a rabies-infected organ transplant extremely rare.
“We only know of one other time and that was in 2004,” Reynolds said.
In that incident, also involving an organ donor who was infected with rabies unknowingly, a total of three transplant recipients were killed by the virus, she said.
The CDC said laboratory testing of organ donors for rabies is not routinely performed because it is difficult to confirm results in the short period of time available to keep organs viable for use in transplants.
Reynolds said she did not know the cause of death of the Florida donor, who had recently moved from North Carolina. But she said laboratory analysis had shown that both the donor, and the recipient who died, were infected by the same type of rabies that can infect raccoons.
In the United States, bats are most frequently associated with transmitting rabies to humans. Apart from raccoons, skunks and foxes are among other commonly reported rabid animals.