Infectious disease issues in xenotransplantation

R. S. Boneva, T. M. Folks, L. E. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Xenotransplantation, the transplantation of living organs, tissues, or cells from one species to another, is viewed as a potential solution to the existing shortage of human organs for transplantation. While whole-organ xenotransplantation is still in the preclinical stage, cellular xenotransplantation and extracorporeal perfusion applications are showing promise in early clinical trials. Advances in immunosuppressive therapy, gene engineering, and cloning of animals bring a broader array of xenotransplantation protocols closer to clinical trials. Despite several potential advantages over allotransplantation, xenotransplantation encompasses a number of problems. Immunologic rejection remains the primary hindrance. The potential to introduce infections across species barriers, another major concern, is the main focus of this review. Nonhuman primates are unlikely to be a main source for xenotransplantation products despite their phylogenetic proximity to humans. Genetically engineered pigs, bred under special conditions, are currently envisaged as the major source. Thus far, there has been no evidence for human infections caused by pig xenotransplantation products. However, the existence of xenotropic endogenous retroviruses and the clinical evidence of long-lasting porcine cell microchimerism indicate the potential for xenogeneic infections. Thus, further trials should continue under regulatory oversight, with close clinical and laboratory monitoring for potential xenogeneic infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Microbiology Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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