Three patients died within a few weeks of receiving the organs

Three organ recipients in southern New England have died in the past month of a virus spread by rodents, and officials said yesterday that three transplant patients in Wisconsin died under similar circumstances in 2003.

The organs in New England were taken from an unidentified resident of Rhode Island who died of a stroke in mid-April, said the New England Organ Bank, one of several dozen regional centers around the nation that coordinate organ donations.

Health officials in Rhode Island said a hamster owned by the donor, bought at a Petsmart store in Warwick, R.I., tested positive for the rodent disease, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, or LCMV.

The patient's organs - two kidneys, a liver and two lungs - were donated to four people in Massachusetts and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Rhode Island. All of the patients except one kidney recipient died within a few weeks of receiving the organs. The donor's blood showed no signs of the virus, officials said, suggesting that it was present at levels too low to be detected, tells the New York Times.

The virus is commonly found in house mice but usually produces only flu-like symptoms in humans. It has also been linked with neurological illness and miscarriages.

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