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An Air Force recruit whose organs were donated to four patients including a kidney recipient who died of rabies had at least two untreated raccoon bites several months before he became sick, and tests confirm his rabies-infected kidney caused the recipient's disease, according to a medical journal report.
Doctors initially attributed the donor's death to other causes. But during an investigation prompted by the kidney recipient's death in February, lab testing found evidence of rabies in the donor's brain tissue and also detected encephalitis, a brain inflammation that can be caused by rabies.
The virus was consistent with raccoon rabies and was nearly identical to a virus found in the transplanted kidney and other tissue from the recipient, an Army veteran from Maryland, said the report, compiled by researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others and published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Investigators don't know if organs given to three other patients - the North Carolina donor's heart, liver and second kidney-were infected with the rabies virus, but all three were considered at risk. Their recipients received anti-rabies treatment "and to date remain well," said CDC researcher Dr. Neil Vora, the lead author.