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opioid crisis

Organ donations are increasingly coming from overdose victims

Americans are dying in ever-increasing numbers as the ongoing opioid crisis rages on. They're also forming a growing percentage of organ donors, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Friday shows.

In 2010, about 8.9 percent of organs came what the CDC calls "increased risk donors," Stat News describes. That term describes "donors at increased risk for transmitting" hepatitis B and C and HIV to recipients, the CDC report describes. About 4.3 percent of 2010's organ donors had died due to drug intoxication, and another 1.3 percent had reported injection drug use in their lifetime, with both of those factors qualifying them as IRDs.

But in 2013, the Public Health Service changed its guidelines, encouraging the testing of donors for hepatitis and HIV and separating donors in standard risk and increased risk categories. As of 2017, nearly all IRDs are tested for these viruses, allowing more of their organs to be safely used in transplants. There's also been an increase in infection monitoring once those organs are transplanted into recipients. This has all allowed the number and proportion of IRD transplants to safely triple from 2010, making up 26.3 percent of all deceased donors in 2017, the CDC numbers show.

America still faces a critical organ shortage, which scientists hope to solve by growing human organs, perhaps in other animals. But in the meantime, this report suggests further testing and virus prevention methods could allow for safe IRD transplants to continue. Read the whole CDC report here.