WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Many U.S. transplant surgeons unnecessarily shun organs from high-risk donors instead of trying to develop new safeguards that would protect and inform transplant recipients, a new study finds.

About one-third of transplant surgeons in the nation "overreacted" to a 2007 case in which four patients in Chicago contracted HIV after receiving organs from a single donor unknowingly infected with HIV, the only such episode in 20 years, according to the Johns Hopkins University researchers. They surveyed 422 transplant surgeons about their attitudes and use of organs from high-risk donors before and after the Chicago case.

High-risk donors include intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men and prostitutes. These groups of people account for nearly 10 percent of organ donations in the United States, and they are tested for HIV and other infections before their organs are approved for transplantation.

"There is ample evidence that many patients are better off receiving organs from high-risk donors than waiting for a different organ, but that's not what's happening in many transplant centers," study author Dr. Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release.

In the Chicago case, it's believed that the donor's HIV infection was too recent to show up on pre-transplantation screening tests.

The study appears in the January issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

More information

The United Network for Organ Sharing has more about organ transplantation.