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Am J Transplant. 2004 Sep;4(9):1383-90.

Xenotransplantation: infectious risk revisited.

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  • 1Transplantation Infectious Disease and Compromised Host Program, Infectious Disease and Transplantation Units, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Xenotransplantation is a possible solution for the shortage of tissues for human transplantation. Multiple hurdles exist to clinical xenotransplantation, including immunologic barriers, metabolic differences between pigs--the source species most commonly considered--and humans, and ethical concerns. Since clinical trials were first proposed almost 10 years ago, the degree of risk for infection transmitted from the xenograft donor to the recipient has been extensively investigated. A number of potential viral pathogens have been identified including porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV), porcine cytomegalovirus (PCMV), and porcine lymphotropic herpesvirus (PLHV). Sensitive diagnostic assays have been developed for each virus. Human-tropic PERV are exogenous recombinants between PERV-A and PERV-C sequences and are present in only a subset of swine. Porcine cytomegalovirus can be excluded from herds of source animals by early weaning of piglets. In contrast, the risks associated with PLHV remain undefined. Microbiologic studies and assays for potential xenogeneic pathogens have furthered understanding of risks associated with xenotransplantation. Thus far, clinical xenotransplantation of pig tissues has not resulted in transmission of viral infection to humans; significant risks for disease transmission from swine to humans have not been confirmed. If immunologic hurdles can be overcome, it is reasonable to initiate carefully monitored clinical trials.

Copyright 2004 Blackwell Munksgaard

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