Virus May Have Killed Pig Heart Transplant Patient

Virus May Have Killed Pig Heart Transplant Patient

Mysterious Transplant Death – Doctors Think They Know What Happened

( – In January, a 57-year-old man received a first-of-its-kind heart transplant. David Bennett, Sr., received a heart transplant using a genetically-modified pig heart. Two months later, he died, and now, doctors think they know why.

On May 5, the University of Maryland revealed they found viral pig DNA in Bennett’s heart. The porcine cytomegalovirus caused an infection in the heart. However, the physicians aren’t clear whether the virus contributed to his death. Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, the scientific director of the school’s xenotransplant program, told the Associated Press more sophisticated tests are in development, so doctors don’t miss viruses.

Dr. Bartley Griffith, the transplant surgeon, told the AP the virus might have been a “hitchhiker,” or one that lurks without causing any disease.

Bennett’s son previously said his father knew the transplant had a slim chance of working. He went through with it anyway because he had no other options and didn’t want to die. Bennett reportedly told his doctors that even if he didn’t live, his medical team might learn something that could help others.

Although animal-to-human transplants could save many people, concerns exist the procedures could introduce animal infections into humans. Risks are largely unknown as yet.

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