Lack of cross-species transmission of porcine endogenous retrovirus infection to nonhuman primate recipients of porcine cells, tissues, or organs

William M. Switzer, Robert E. Michler, Vedapuri Shanmugam, Aprille Matthews, Althaf I. Hussain, Anthony Wright, Paul Sandstrom, Louisa E. Chapman, Collin Weber, Susan Safley, Roger R. Denny, Albert Navarro, Valerie Evans, Allen J. Norin, Pawel Kwiatkowski, Walid Heneine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Nonhuman primates (NHPs) have been widely used in different porcine xenograft procedures inevitably resulting in exposure to porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV). Surveillance for PERV infection in these NHPs may provide information on the risks of cross-species transmission of PERV, particularly for recipients of vascularized organ xenografts for whom data from human clinical trials is unavailable. Methods. We tested 21 Old World and 2 New World primates exposed to a variety of porcine xenografts for evidence of PERV infection. These NHPs included six baboon recipients of pig hearts, six bonnet macaque recipients of transgenic pig skin grafts, and nine rhesus macaque and two capuchin recipients of encapsulated pig islet cells. Serologic screening for PERV antibody was done by a validated Western blot assay, and molecular detection of PERV sequences in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and plasma was performed using sensitive polymerase chain reaction and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays, respectively. Spleen and lymph node tissues available from six bonnet macaques and three rhesus macaques were also tested for PERV sequences. Results. All plasma samples were negative for PERV RNA suggesting the absence of viremia in these xenografted animals. Similarly, PERV sequences were not detectable in any PBMC and tissue samples, arguing for the lack of latent infection of these compartments. In addition, all plasma samples were negative for PERV antibodies. Conclusion. These data suggest the absence of PERV infection in all 23 NHPs despite exposure to vascularized porcine organs or tissue xenografts and the use of immunosuppressive therapies in some animals. These findings suggest that PERV is not easily transmitted to these NHP species through these types of xenografts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-965
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 15 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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