Balamuthia mandrillaris Transmitted Through Organ Transplantation — Mississippi, 2009. (2010). CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: 59(36). Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5936a1.htm.
On December 14, 2009, a physician in Mississippi contacted CDC to report possible transplant-transmitted encephalitis in two kidney transplant recipients who shared the same organ donor. Histopathologic testing of donor autopsy brain tissue at CDC showed amebae, and subsequent testing of specimens from the donor and the two kidney recipients confirmed transmission by transplantation of Balamuthia granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE), a rare disease caused by Balamuthia mandrillaris, a free-living ameba found in soil (1). One kidney recipient, a woman aged 31 years, died; the other recipient, a man aged 27 years, survived with neurologic sequelae. Recipients of the heart and liver from the same donor received preemptive therapy and have shown no signs of infection. The donor, a previously healthy boy aged 4 years, was presumed to have died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), an autoimmune neurologic disease, after infection with influenza A. An investigation was conducted by the state health departments in Mississippi, Kentucky, Florida, and Alabama and CDC to characterize the cases, elucidate possible exposures in the donor, and develop recommendations for early detection and prevention. This is the first reported transmission of Balamuthia by organ transplantation. Clinicians should be aware of Balamuthia infection as a potentially fatal cause of encephalitis. Organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and transplant centers should be aware of the potential for Balamuthia infection in donors with encephalitis of uncertain etiology, and OPOs should communicate this elevated risk for infection to transplant centers so they can make an informed risk assessment in the decision to accept an organ.