办事指南

Dubious organs

点击量:   时间:2017-11-26 01:01:08

By Ian Anderson THE discovery of a previously unknown virus in pigs has rekindled fears about the safety of xenotransplants—transplants of animal organs into human patients. The virus, which caused deformities and stillbirths among pigs, also infected two piggery workers who developed severe flu-like symptoms. One of the biggest question marks over the future of xenotransplants, especially the use of pig organs, is the potential for introducing animal viruses into the human population. Proponents of cross-species transplants say that the organs can be screened for pathogens before use. “But you can’t screen for disease agents that you don’t know about,” virologist Peter Kirkland told a meeting of the Horizons of Science forum in Sydney this week. Kirkland, from the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute in Camden, New South Wales, was a member of a large scientific team which tracked down the cause of a disease which swept through a piggery near Sydney last year. The culprit was a paramyxovirus—which the team traced to a colony of grey-headed fruit bats that were living near the piggery. They believe the bat is the host for the disease. No sows or growing pigs showed any outward sign of illness. The virus only attacked pig fetuses, which were either stillborn or had serious defects of the brain and spinal cord never before seen in pigs. Although the virus seems to have been contained, “there is nothing to say it won’t break out again at this piggery or elsewhere”, warned Kirkland. The public health risk is minimal, he said. The virus has not been found in pig products, and none of the 350-plus vets,