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Pig virus raises xenotransplant alarms.

As interest in using animals as a source of donor organs rises, some researchers warn that this strategy, known as xenotransplantation, may introduce dangerous new viruses into the human population (SN: 11/4/95, p. 298). Those fears received some support in the March Nature Medicine, where Robin A. Weiss of the Institute of Cancer Research in London and his colleagues report the first discovery of a pig retrovirus that can infect human cells.

Among viruses, retroviruses are particularly troublesome. Since they normally infect cells by integrating their genes into a host genome, these viruses can trigger cancer-causing mutations. Moreover, this integration means that, unlike other pig viruses t hat infect people, porcine retroviruses may be difficult to eliminate from herds intended for xenotransplantation.

"Public health officials should resist the transplant community's clamor for animal organs in light of this new data," cautions virologist Jon Allan of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas, in a commentary accompanying th e report.
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Title Annotation:Biology; pig retrovirus that can infect human cells raises concern about transplanting animal organs into humans
Author:Travis, John
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 19, 1997
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