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Microbial safety in xenotransplantation

Mueller, Nicolas Ja; Takeuchi, Yasuhirob; Mattiuzzo, Giadac; Scobie, Lindad

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: April 2011 - Volume 16 - Issue 2 - p 201–206
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0b013e32834486f6
Xenotransplantation: Edited by Jean-Paul Soulillou

Purpose of review As clinical trials are in progress involving porcine islet cell transplantation, microbial safety remains a key issue. Therefore, in the context of pig-to-human xenotransplantation, we provide an overview of the recent progress in the studies of relevant viruses including well known problematic viruses, such as herpesviruses and porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) in addition to some emerging issues regarding other pathogens.

Recent findings The ability of herpesvirus to infect across species barriers is probably underestimated and requires monitoring and control of both xenograft donors and recipients for latent infection. Exclusion from donors and recipient monitoring for other exogenous pathogens including newly identified Parvovirus-4 are warranted. The availability of the swine whole genome sequence may help to characterize and select donor animals with less PERV infectivity. Rigorous PERV monitoring in both clinical and preclinical xenotransplantation experiments must be included in clinical protocols.

Summary A wide range of pathogens, both viruses and bacteria, pose potential safety problems in xenotransplantation, highlighting the importance of prescreening of the donor animals, and careful monitoring and follow-up of the patients.

aDivision of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland

bDivision of infection and Immunity, Wohl Virion Centre, University College London, London

cDivision of Retrovirology, National Institute for Biological Standards and Controls, Health Protection Agency, Hertfordshire, UK

dDepartment of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK

Correspondence to Wohl Virion Centre, Windeyer Building, University College London, 46 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JF, UK Tel: +44 2076799569; fax: +44 2076799555; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.