BEIJING, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese kidney transplant recipient infected with the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) has recovered.
The patient, 53, had a kidney transplant 12 years ago. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January in the Tongji Hospital affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in central China's Hubei Province.
Transplant recipients are at risk for respiratory viruses. They have much lower immunity than normal people because they need to take lifelong immunosuppressant drugs that can suppress the immune response after transplant surgery.
However, the immunosuppressants are in contradiction with the drugs for treating COVID-19. Once a recipient is infected with COVID-19, the disease may progress faster and the treatment will become more difficult, according to Zhu Lan, a transplant surgeon from the hospital.
"Critically ill recipients need to stop taking the suppressants immediately, otherwise the novel coronavirus will become difficult to control," Zhu said. "But on the other hand, once going off the suppressants for a long time, acute rejection may occur in the transplanted organs, resulting in renal insufficiency, also a life-threatening medical condition."
Since the recipient had severe symptoms, including a constant fever, the medical staff of the Wuhan hospital decided to stop suppressants temporarily and use small doses of hormones, which have a certain immunosuppressive function and can help control pneumonia.
After several days in the hospital, the patient showed improved clinical symptoms and began taking the suppressants as before. His kidney gradually functioned well.
According to local media reports, the case is the result of multi-department and multi-specialty medical cooperation, which will provide important guidance for curing patients with similar conditions.
China had 20,000 transplantation operations in 2018, ranking second globally in the number of organ transplants, according to the National Health Commission.