A man who died two months after getting a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig may have been a victim of a pig infection, a new report had found.
David Bennett, 57, died on March 8 after doctors from the University of Maryland Medical Centre transplanted a genetically modified pig’s heart into his body in January 2022.
He had been diagnosed with terminal heart disease and deemed ineligible for a human transplant, due to poor health.
The pig used in the transplant had been genetically modified to knock out several genes that would otherwise have led to the organ being rejected by a human body.
Despite doing well three days after the experimental seven-hour procedure, Mr Bennett’s condition began deteriorating, and he died two months later.
In a statement released by the university, a spokesperson said that there was “no obvious cause identified at the time of his death”.
In a new report published by the MIT Technology Review, it has been suggested that Mr. Bennett’s new heart could possibly have been infected by a pig virus called ‘porcine cytomegalovirus’.
Bartley Griffith, University of Maryland School of Medicine transplant surgeon, said: “We are beginning to learn why he passed on.
“The virus was maybe was the actor, or could be the actor, that set this whole thing off.”
Porcine Cytomegalovirus is a preventable infection that is linked to devastating effects on transplant patients.
Mike Curtis, CEO of eGenesis, a company that is also breeding pigs for transplant organs, said: “It was surprising.
“That pig is supposed to be clean of all pig pathogens, and this is a significant one.
“Without the virus, would Mr. Bennett have lived? We don’t know, but the infection didn’t help.
“It likely contributed to the failure.”