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Coronavirus

Japan transplants live-donor lung to COVID patient in world first

Husband and son donors in good condition, says Kyoto University Hospital

Doctors at Kyoto University Hospital perform the world's first living-donor lung transplant on a patient suffering from COVID-19 complications.   © Kyoto University Hospital/Kyodo

TOKYO -- Kyoto University Hospital has transplanted lung tissue from living persons to a patient suffering from serious COVID-19 pneumonia, in the world's first living-donor lung transplant to a novel coronavirus patient, according to the hospital in a Thursday announcement.

While there have been 20 to 40 lung transplants in China, Europe and the U.S. after infection, all were from brain-dead donors. "The world's first living donor lung transplant is expected to be a promising treatment for patients who have serious lung disorders," said the university hospital in a news release.

The patient is a woman who lives in the Kansai region where the hospital is located. After being infected with COVID-19 at the end of last year, her condition deteriorated rapidly and both lungs began to fail.

After undergoing a three-month treatment with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, the woman was admitted to Kyoto University Hospital on Monday. The patient received parts of lungs from her husband and son during an 11-hour operation on Wednesday. The university hospital said the two family donors are in good health.

Although the patient tested negative for COVID-19 in a PCR test, "there was no hope of recovery from the lung disorder, and the only way to save her life was to transplant the lung," the hospital said.

The living-donor lung transplant is only available for people under 65 years of age who have no other organ damage. Many patients undergoing the same treatment for COVID-19 tend to have underlying conditions, which may limit the number of patients eligible for the procedure, the hospital added.

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