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In 2013, 28,955 organ transplants were performed in this country. Of these, 22,967 were conducted using organs procured from deceased donors. As impressive as this number may seem, the demand is even greater, with over 123,000 people currently awaiting an organ transplant. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, or OPTN, attempts to increase the number of and access to transplants while working to reduce the risk of transmission of disease from organ donors to recipients. While some organ transplantations are life-saving procedures, serious illness and death can occur from undetected infections in donor organs and tissues.

Transplant centers have very little time to evaluate if the need for transplant for a particular recipient outweighs the possible risk of infection from a potential donor. In the case of transplants from deceased donors, time and other factors limit the testing that can be performed prior to transplant and for each donor there is the potential to infect multiple recipients.  In addition to laboratory testing, all potential deceased donors undergo a medical risk assessment to screen for potential infectious agents.  However, complete and accurate information can be very difficult to obtain at the time of organ donation. Over the past decade, new efforts in surveillance, detection, and screening of health risks have been employed to make transplants safer and to ensure that recipients have the best outcomes possible.

This session of Public Health Grand Rounds presented some of the common themes that have emerged in unusual transplant-transmitted infections. Specifically, we heard about the work that CDC and partners in the organ transplantation community are actively doing to further reduce the risk of unusual transplant-associated infections.

Beyond the Data

Dr. Phoebe Thorpe and Dr. Sherif Zaki discuss the important work being done to further reduce the risk of unusual transplant-associated infections.

Ensuring that organs are safe requires:

  • Involvement by many disciplines including: pathologists, epidemiologists, clinicians, and others
  • Global collaboration between federal and state agencies as well as academic institutions
  • Continued focus on improving regulations and screening procedures

CDC and its organ transplantation partners encourage viewers to consider organ donation – it really is a gift of life.

Presented By

Robert Walsh, BA
Director, Division of Transplantation, Healthcare Systems Bureau
Health Resources and Services Administration
Daniel R. Kaul, MD
Director, Transplant Infectious Disease Services,
University of Michigan Health System
Chair, Disease Transmission Advisory Committee,
United Network for Organ Sharing

University of Michigan Medical Center
Sherif R. Zaki, MBChB, PhD
Chief, Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC
CDR Sridha V. Basavaraju, MD
Deputy Director, Office of Blood, Organ, and Other Tissue Safety,
Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion

National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases, CDC

Facilitated By

John Iskander, MD, MPH
Scientific Director
Phoebe Thorpe, MD, MPH
Deputy Scientific Director
Susan Laird, MSN, RN
Communications Director

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  • Page last reviewed: February 28, 2018
  • Page last updated: February 28, 2018
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Science
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication
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