A pig virus may have contributed to the death of first pig heart transplant patient

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A preventable infection by a porcine virus might have contributed to the death of the first patient to have a heart transplant with a pig organ, MIT Technology Review reported this week.

David Bennett Sr, who had severe heart disease, received a genetically modified pig heart in early January of this year — a major milestone in animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation. He died in March. Initially, the hospital where the procedure was performed said that the cause of death was unknown.

But last month, Bennett’s transplant surgeon said in a webinar that the heart was infected with porcine cytomegalovirus, a virus that doesn’t infect human cells but can damage the organ. Virus-free hearts transplanted into baboons survived much…

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