Public Release: 

Scientists discover new virus caused deaths of transplant recipients from single donor

Knowledge of genetic sequence of virus will enable improvements in screening to enhance transplantation safety

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Scientists in the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues in the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia and 454 Life Sciences have discovered a new virus that was responsible for the deaths of three transplant recipients who received organs from a single donor in Victoria, Australia.

The previously unknown virus, which is related to lymphocytic choreomeningitis virus (LCMV), was found using rapid sequencing technology established by 454 Life Sciences and bioinformatics algorithms developed in the Greene Laboratory with support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Known strains of LCMV have been implicated in a small number of cases of disease transmission by organ transplantation, however, the newly discovered virus is sufficiently different that it could not be detected using existing screening methods.

Over 30,000 organ transplants are performed in the U.S. each year. Knowledge of the genetic sequence of this virus will enable improvements in screening that will enhance the safety of transplantation.

Ian Lipkin, MD, director of the Greene Laboratory and Principal Investigator of the Northeast Biodefense Center, emphasized the importance of academic, public health, and industrial partnership in this work. "This was a team effort. Drs. Mike Catton and Julian Druce at the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory reached out to us after a comprehensive state-of-the-art investigation failed to turn up leads," stated Dr. Lipkin. "We succeeded in identifying the virus responsible for the deaths by building on their work and utilizing new tools for pathogen surveillance and discovery developed in the Greene Laboratory and 454 Life Sciences."

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About the Mailman School of Public Health

The only accredited school of public health in New York City, and among the first in the nation, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health provides instruction and research opportunities to more than 950 graduate students in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees. Its students and more than 300 multi-disciplinary faculty engage in research and service in the city, nation, and around the world, concentrating on biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, population and family health, and sociomedical sciences. www.mailman.hs.columbia.edu

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