Early success transplanting kidneys from donors with new SARS-CoV-2 RNA positivity: A report of 10 cases

Am J Transplant. 2021 Nov;21(11):3743-3749. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16765. Epub 2021 Jul 23.


Transplantation of solid organs from donors with active SARS-CoV-2 infection has been advised against due to the possibility of disease transmission to the recipient. However, with the exception of lungs, conclusive data for productive infection of transplantable organs do not exist. While such data are awaited, the organ shortage continues to claim thousands of lives each year. In this setting, we put forth a strategy to transplant otherwise healthy extrapulmonary organs from SARS-CoV-2-infected donors. We transplanted 10 kidneys from five deceased donors with new detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA during donor evaluation in early 2021. Kidney donor profile index ranged from 3% to 56%. All organs had been turned down by multiple other centers. Without clear signs or symptoms, the veracity of timing of SARS-CoV-2 infection could not be confirmed. With 8-16 weeks of follow-up, outcomes for all 10 patients and allografts have been excellent. All have been free of signs or symptoms of donor-derived SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our findings raise important questions about the nature of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection in potential organ donors and suggest underutilization of exceptionally good extrapulmonary organs with low risk for disease transmission.

Keywords: clinical decision-making; clinical research/practice; donors and donation: deceased; infection and infectious agents-viral; infectious disease; kidney transplantation/nephrology.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Kidney
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*


  • RNA, Viral