Background: Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) infection has become a major health problem in Europe and is currently a common cause of viral brain infection in many countries. Encephalitis in transplant recipients, althrough rare, is becoming a recognized complication. Our study provides the first description of transmission of TBEV through transplantation of solid organs.
Methods: Three patients who received solid organ transplants from a single donor (2 received kidney, and 1 received liver) developed encephalitis 17-49 days after transplantation and subsequently died. Blood and autopsy tissue samples were tested by next-generation sequencing (NGS) and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Results: All 3 recipients were first analyzed in autopsy brain tissue samples and/or cerebrospinal fluid by NGS, which yielded 24-52 million sequences per sample and 9-988 matched TBEV sequences in each patient. The presence of TBEV was confirmed by RT-PCR in all recipients and in the donor, and direct sequencing of amplification products corroborated the presence of the same viral strain.
Conclusions: We demonstrated transmission of TBEV by transplantation of solid organs. In such a setting, TBEV infection may be fatal, probably due to pharmacological immunosuppression. Organ donors should be screened for TBEV when coming from or visiting endemic areas.
Keywords: encephalitis; transplantation; TBEV.
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