Chapter 13 : Retroviruses and Xenotransplantation

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Most vertebrate species harbor multiple inherited proviruses, which are called endogenous retroviruses (ERV) to distinguish them from infectiously transmitted, exogenous retroviruses. These inherited retroviruses in potential source animals raise questions about their potential transmission via xenotransplantation and are discussed in this chapter. It is noteworthy that xenotropic retroviruses have been found to infect foreign cells in the xenotransplantation setting. The possibility of recombination between animal retroviruses and endogenous or infectious human retroviral genomes needs to be borne in mind in xenotransplantation. As pigs are a favored species for xenotransplantation to humans, there has been renewed interest in porcine retroviruses. Unlike ruminants such as sheep, pigs appear to carry only one group of infectious retrovirus, the C-type retroviruses, related to murine leukemia virus (MLV) and gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV). The foregoing discussion of natural and experimental infection across large phylogenetic distances and other factors, show that retroviruses are able to infect and cause disease in hosts wholly unrelated to those from which they emerge. Indeed, the zoonoses discussed in this chapter illustrate that animal retroviruses have found other means of infiltrating humans. Xenotransplantation can offer the extremely rare event of zoonosis much more opportunity to occur, for many reasons. First, the physical barrier to cross-species infection is breached by implanting animal tissues in humans. Second, the immunosuppression necessary to prevent graft rejection may allow the virus to take and propagate in the human body. More research is required on retroviral and other infections in relation to xenotransplantation.

Citation: Weiss R. 2001. Retroviruses and Xenotransplantation, p 239-250. In Platt J (ed), Xenotransplantation. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818043.ch13
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Figure 1

Unrooted phylogenetic tree showing major groups of retrovirus.

Citation: Weiss R. 2001. Retroviruses and Xenotransplantation, p 239-250. In Platt J (ed), Xenotransplantation. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818043.ch13
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Generic image for table
Table 1

Primate retroviruses

Citation: Weiss R. 2001. Retroviruses and Xenotransplantation, p 239-250. In Platt J (ed), Xenotransplantation. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818043.ch13
Generic image for table
Table 2

Summary of PERV infection in porcine, human, and simian cells

Citation: Weiss R. 2001. Retroviruses and Xenotransplantation, p 239-250. In Platt J (ed), Xenotransplantation. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818043.ch13

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