The story of how the hamster-carrying virus was found to be responsible for multiple transplant deaths

“It was one of those moments that send shudders through even the most experienced physician.

Dr. Staci Fischer was already treating one patient at Rhode Island Hospital battling a virulent infection just 2 1/2 weeks after receiving a new kidney. He had fever and diarrhea and other symptoms that made Fischer think the man had contracted hepatitis.

Then, a few days later, Fischer encountered a second transplant recipient at the Providence hospital whose health had deteriorated precipitously. Like the first patient, the second had received a kidney, and, it turned out, the organs had come from the same donor. The patients’ sudden illnesses were distressingly similar . . .

. . . Fischer’s call started an investigation that led to the discovery of two other transplant recipients gravely ill with mysterious infections at hospitals in Boston. In the end, all four patients, including three who died, would be connected to a single donor whose pet hamster carried the same type of virus that had infected the transplant patients.”

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