Mystery of organ recipient deaths resolved

The mysterious deaths of three Australian organ recipients can now be explained by a novel arenavirus which the donor may have contracted from a mouse in Siberia.

Melbourne man Jovo Vranjesevic, 57, donated his two kidneys and liver to the three recipients in December 2006 after he died of a cerebral haemorrhage upon returning from holiday in the Russian region.

The organs passed hospital checks, however all three recipients — Gurpal Sandhu, 64, Karen Wilkinson, 44, and Carmelina Sirianni, 63, died within six days of each other, one month after the surgeries.

The deaths were initially attributed to causes ranging from pneumocystis pneumonia to hypotensive arrest arising from sepsis.

Six years later, the Coroners Court of Victoria has revealed that the patients died from a virus similar to Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV), which has never been seen before in humans.