Wednesday October 05, 2022

The death of the first pig transplant patient may have been caused by a pig virus

The death of David Bennett Sr., the first person to receive a heart transplant using a pig organ, could have been caused by a preventable infection with a porcine virus, MIT Technology Review reported. This was a significant milestone in animal-to human transplants or xenotransplantation. He died in March. Initial reports from the hospital where the procedure was done indicated that the cause of death wasn’t known.
Bennett’s surgeon for transplantation said last month that the heart had been infected by porcine cytomegalovirus. This virus isn’t harmful to human cells, but can cause serious damage. A German study found that virus-free hearts transplanted into babies survived longer than those with virus infection.
Biotechnology company Revivicor donated a heart to Bennett, which is used to produce genetically modified pigs. They are supposed to be virus-free, but this particular virus can sometimes be difficult to detect, Joachim Denner of the Free University of Berlin told MIT Technology Review. The company declined to comment on the virus and heart to MIT Technology Review.
Bennett’s death was caused by the virus. It is still not clear how significant that role was. However, if Bennett died from the virus and his body didn’t reject the organ, xenotransplantation groups likely won’t need to rethink their overall strategy. Bartley Griffith, a transplant surgeon, stated that if this was an infection, it is possible to prevent it in the future.

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