A preventable infection by a swine virus may have contributed to the death of the first patient to have a heart transplant using a pig organ, MIT Technology Review reported this week.
David Bennett Sr., who suffered from serious heart disease, received a genetically engineered pig heart earlier this January — a major milestone in animal-to-human transplantation, or xenotransplantation. He died in March. First, the hospital where the procedure was performed said the cause of death was unknown.
But last month, Bennett’s transplant surgeon said in a webinar that the heart was infected with porcine cytomegalovirus, a virus that doesn’t infect human cells but can damage the organ. Virus-free hearts transplanted into baboons survived much longer than virus-infected hearts, according to a German study.
Bennett received a heart from biotechnology company Revovicor, which makes genetically engineered pigs. They’re supposed to be virus-free, but this particular virus can be difficult to detect, said Joachim Denner, a virologist at Freie Universität Berlin MIT Technology Review. The company declined to comment MIT Technology Review about the heart and the virus.
It is still unclear what role the virus played in Bennett’s death. But if he died because of the virus — and not because his body rejected the organ — groups working on xenotransplantation probably don’t need to reconsider their overall strategy. “If this was an infection, we can probably prevent it in the future,” Bartley Griffith, the transplant surgeon, said during his presentation.
https://www.theverge.com/2022/5/6/23060519/pig-virus-heart-transplant-xenotransplantation A swine virus may have contributed to the death of the first pig heart transplant patient