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Keywords:

  • organ transplantation;
  • West Nile virus;
  • donor screening;
  • nucleic acid amplification techniques;
  • evaluation

Abstract

The first cases of West Nile virus (WNV) transmitted through solid organ transplantation (SOT) were identified in 2002. Subsequently, 5 additional clusters have been reported to public health officials in the United States. Based upon a limited number of known cases, patients who acquire WNV from infected donor organs might be at higher risk for severe neurologic disease and death, compared with patients infected through mosquito bites. In response, some organ procurement organizations (OPOs) have instituted pre-transplant screening of organ donors for WNV infection. We evaluated the current practices, concerns, and challenges related to screening organ donors for WNV in the United States by reviewing the relevant medical literature and interviewing key stakeholders. Screening organ donors for WNV is not required by national policy. In 2008, 11 (19%) of 58 OPOs performed WNV screening using nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT). These OPOs differ in their screening strategies, NAT performed, and logistical challenges. Concerns of delays in receiving NAT results before transplant and potential false-positive results leading to organ wasting are limitations to more widespread screening. Furthermore, it is unknown if WNV screening practices decrease SOT-related morbidity and mortality, or if screening is cost-effective. Additional data are needed to assess and improve transplant outcomes related to WNV.