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Organ transplants fell globally during the pandemic – study

In this Dec. 1, 2014 photo, doctors and assistants work on a kidney transplant for Maria Ramos, who received a donated kidney from her mother, at a private clinic in La Paz, Bolivia. Ramos, 27, finally got the kidney she needed thanks to an ambitious new Bolivian government program that makes organ transplants available at no charge to the poor. Yet the program must overcome multiple hurdles, beginning with deep-rooted cultural resistance in this largely indigenous nation. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

The number of organ transplants performed worldwide fell significantly during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, a new study says.

The research, carried out by the Italy-based European Society for Organ Transplantation and published on Monday in The Lancet medical journal, analysed data from 22 countries and noted a 15-per cent average decrease in the number of transplant operations worldwide.

The pandemic’s first wave had a devastating impact on transplant availability in many countries, affecting waiting lists and leading to a significant loss of life, said the report’s lead author Olivier Aubert of the Paris Transplant Group.

The study included all kidney, liver, lung, and heart transplants done during the COVID-19 outbreak and compared the figures to the year before the pandemic began.

Organ transplants fell particularly sharply in Japan (down 67 per cent), Croatia and Hungary (both down 37 per cent), the United Kingdom (down 31 per cent), and Brazil (down 29 per cent).

By contrast, the authors found little change for Switzerland, with only about 1 per cent fewer transplants. A comparatively small decrease was also recorded in the United States (down 4 per cent), Norway (down 7 per cent), and Canada (down 10 per cent).

In Germany, doctors transplanted almost 330 fewer organs from the beginning of the first wave until the end of the year, compared with the same period in 2019 – an 11-per cent drop.

According to the research, scientists expect “robust numbers of living donor transplants to take place in countries where COVID-19 infection rates remain under control and confinement measures instituted by public health authorities are relaxed”.

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