Virus found in pig heart used in human transplants

Researchers trying to find out what killed the first person to receive a heart transplant from a pig found an animal virus lurking in an organ, but whether it played a role in the death of a man. Still do not know.

Maryland Male, 57-year-old David Bennett Senior, Died in MarchTwo months after the groundbreaking experimental transplant. A doctor at the University of Maryland said Thursday that he discovered an unwelcome surprise: viral DNA in the heart of a pig. They did not find any sign that this bug, called porcine cytomegalovirus, was causing a vigorous infection.

However, the main concern about animal-to-human transplantation is the risk that it can lead to new types of infectious diseases in people.

Some viruses are “latent” and lurking without causing illness, “potentially hitchhikers,” Bennett’s transplant surgeon Dr. Bartley Griffith told The Associated Press. ..

Still, more sophisticated tests are under development to “keep track of this type of virus,” added Dr. Muhammad Mohiudin, science director of the university’s xenotransplantation program.

The animal virus was first reported by the MIT Technology Review, citing a scientific presentation made by Griffith to the American Society for Transplantation last month.

For decades, doctors have tried to save lives using animal organs, but with no success. Bennett, who was dying and ineligible for a human heart transplant, underwent final groove surgery using a genetically engineered pig heart to reduce the risk of the immune system rapidly rejecting such foreign organs. rice field.

A Maryland team said the donor pigs were healthy, passed the tests required by the Food and Drug Administration to check for infection, and were bred in a facility designed to prevent the spread of the infection in animals. Stated. Revivicor, the company that provided the animals, declined to comment.

According to Griffith, his patient was very ill, but one morning when he woke up with symptoms similar to an infection, he had recovered considerably from the transplant. Doctors performed a number of tests to understand the cause and gave Bennett various antibiotics, antivirals, and immunopotentiating treatments. However, the pig’s heart was swollen, filled with fluid, and eventually stopped functioning.

“What was the virus, if any, that might have caused his heart swelling?” Griffith asked. “To be honest, I don’t know.”

He said the reaction also did not appear to be typical organ rejection, and that the investigation was still underway.

Meanwhile, doctors at other medical centers across the country are experimenting with donated human animal organs and are anxious to immediately attempt a formal study of living patients. It is not clear how the pig virus affects these plans.


The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Science Education Department of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.