Abstract

West Nile virus (WNV), a mosquito-transmitted single-stranded RNA flavivirus, causes human disease of variable severity. We report clinical and pathologic findings of fatal encephalitis from the transmission of WNV from an organ donor to a kidney transplant recipient. The patient developed a febrile illness 18 days after transplantation, which progressed to encephalitis. Postmortem examination demonstrated extensive viral encephalopathic changes. Immunohistochemical studies highlighted WNV antigens within neurons, especially in the cerebellum and brainstem. Flavivirus virions were detected ultrastructurally within the cerebellum, and WNV was isolated from the brain and the brainstem. Thus, this case demonstrates the first death in the first solid organ transplant–associated transmission of WNV. Immunosuppression of the transplant recipient might have been responsible for the fulminant viral effects. The pathologic diagnosis helped guide subsequent epidemiologic and laboratory studies.