The Hospital Authority (HA) said it is considering making hepatitis E screening mandatory for organ donors.
The proposal came after the organs donated by a deceased patient were found to have caused five recipients to be infected with hepatitis E, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
An expert group will be formed to assess the effectiveness and feasibility of conducting such screening prior to organ transplantation, the authority said in a statement.
If hepatitis E infection is identified in an asymptomatic organ donor, the expert group will consider the protocol for post-transplant clinical management of the organ recipient.
In February this year, a 29-year-old woman died of acute cerebral hemorrhage at Princess Margaret Hospital.
As per her wish, the hospital took out her heart, liver, lungs and kidneys, none of which underwent hepatitis E testing, which is not required under existing law, before they were transplanted to five patients.
All of the five recipients developed liver problems two months after receiving the transplants, with subsequent investigations showing the donor was a carrier of hepatitis E, RTHK reported.
The test results showing all the recipients had contracted hepatitis B were disclosed on Monday by the Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong, which confirmed that the situation was an outbreak.
One of the recipients, a 59-year-old man, died on Aug. 18, but Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, from the HKU microbiology department who investigated the incident, said the patient’s death was due to a brain infection and not related to hepatitis E.
Yuen said there were cases overseas, in which organ recipients were infected with hepatitis E as a result of the transplants, but he said the number of patients infected this time is the highest ever, according to RTHK.
The hospitals concerned will continue to closely monitor the condition of the four other patients, who are currently in a stable condition. Three, in fact, have been discharged.
The case of the deceased lung recipient will be referred to the coroner for follow-up.
Despite the incident, the authority said it remained grateful to the organ donor for her contributions and has informed her family of the latest findings.
– Contact us at [email protected]