CDC: Organ donor passes rare infection

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - December 19, 2009 An extremely rare infection has been passed from an organ donor to at least one recipient. It's thought to be the first human-to-human transfer of the amoeba.

A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says four people in three states received organs from a patient who died at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in November after suffering from neurological problems.

The CDC spokesman says two of the recipients are critically ill, and the organism (Balamuthia mandrillaris) has been found in one of them. The others haven't shown symptoms.

The organism is a microscopic parasite found in soil that causes encephalitis. It can be especially dangerous to people undergoing organ transplants, whose immune systems are purposely weakened so their bodies don't reject their new organs.

The medical director of the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency says there are risks to transplants and doctors can't test for everything, but the potential benefits far outweigh the risks.

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