Policy Forum

The Public Health Risk of Animal Organ and Tissue Transplantation into Humans

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Science  09 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5276, pp. 746-747
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5276.746


Xenotransplantation—the use of animal organs or tissues for transplantation into humans—may overcome the severe problem posed by organ shortages. However, it also has the potential to compromise public health through the spread of novel viral diseases between species. Fundamental questions regarding the relative risks of viruses from potential donor species and different sources of donor material must be addressed. Policy developers must consider whether there are significant differences between xenografts and the unsterilized biological products derived from animals that are now commercially available. A national system for virus screening, discovery, detection, and diagnostics is necessary and will require infrastructural changes.