Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK


Health

Baboon virus passed to transplant patient

Baboon virus was passed on to humans

A man who received a baboon liver in an operation hailed as a breakthrough contracted a virus thought to only affect the animal.

This is a major setback for doctors who hope that animal to human transplantation is the answer to donor organ shortages.

The man, a 35-year-old HIV patient, died from liver disease just two months after the transplant.

But tests after his death revealed that a herpes virus known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) - which is present in virtually all wild baboons - had crossed the species barrier.

Marian Michaels, of the University of Pittsburgh, said: "This is the first time that a virus has actually been cultured from a person who received an animal transplant."

The patient was given antibiotics and antiviral drugs when given the baboon liver.

'Quite concerning'

Experts had hoped that the baboon virus would not be able to survive in a human.

Ms Michaels said: "I think it is quite concerning that an animal virus thought to be species-specific could be transmitted."


[ image: The patient died shortly after the operation]
The patient died shortly after the operation
She told a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology that the finding struck a blow to the idea that primates could be used as a source of organs for transplantation.

However, she said one 25-year-old Aids patient had received bone marrow from a baboon which had been quarantined from other animals from birth, and was therefore free of the infections naturally acquired in primate communities.

But this option raised difficult ethical issues involving the humane treatment of animals.

Operations halted

Because of the risk of unknown infections - which could potentially have far more devastating effects on humans than on the animal - US authorities have called a halt to such transplants for the time being.

The Council of Europe has also ordered a moratorium on animal to human transplantation, or xenotransplantation, because of the risks of infection.

Much work has focused on transplanting organs from genetically modified pigs into humans, but no such operations have been carried out in the UK.

Xenotransplantation is seen as a possible solution to a chronic shortage of donor organs worldwide.

Thousands of people are awaiting liver and heart transplants in the UK.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

19 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
The history of xenotransplantation

30 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
Setback for animal to human transplants

30 Jul 98 | Health
The risks of animal to human transplants





Internet Links


UK Xenotransplantation Interim Authority


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99