Animal virus signs detected in world’s first man who received pig’s heart : Scientists

It was historic pig transplantation to a US man who had a poor health condition and it has been seen as a medical first that could one day help solve the chronic shortage of organ donations.  The 57-year-old man, David Bennett Sr died in March, two months after the ground-breaking experimental pig heart transplant. Thereafter the researchers started to dig for the exact reason for the cause of David’s death. The researchers discovered the organ harbored an animal virus but cannot yet say if it played any role in the man’s death.

Doctors at the University of Maryland say they have found viral DNA inside a pig’s heart. They did not find any symptoms of this bug called porcine cytomegalovirus causing an active infection and subsequent death.

Dr. Bartley Griffith of the University of Maryland School of Medicine said, “The presence of the virus’ DNA in the patient may have caused his rapid degeneration more than one month after transplantation.” The surgeon further raises a doubt that with this concern, there arises a worry about animal-to-human transplants and there is concern upon going with new transplants.

However, David Bennett’s transplant was initially deemed successful. He did not show signs of rejecting the organ, and the pig’s heart continued to function for well over a month, passing a critical milestone for transplant patients. 

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Twenty days after the transplant, Bennett tested positive for porcine CMV, but Griffith said this could be a lab error. Forty-five days after the operation, Bennett was in critical condition, and Griffith said the virus levels had risen sharply in subsequent tests.

Meanwhile, more sophisticated tests are being carried out “to make sure we do not lose these viruses,” said Dr. John H. Snyder, the university’s scientific director of the xenotransplant program. Muhammad Mohiuddin added. The animal virus was first reported by the MIT Technology Review, citing a scientific presentation given by the American Society of Transplantation Griffith last month.