Man who received a pig heart transplant dies with animal virus DNA

A man who received the first genetically modified pig heart transplant has sadly died two months after receiving his transplant.

Published Sat, May 7 2022 12:32 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, May 26 2022 3:53 PM CDT

In a new report from the New York Times, a man who received a pig heart transplant has died with traces of an animal virus.

Man who received a pig heart transplant dies with animal virus DNA 01 |

57-year-old David Bennett Sr lived for two months after receiving his genetically modified pig heart, and according to surgeons who performed the first-of-its-kind procedure, the man's body didn't reject the organ, nor was there any evidence to say that the Bennett developed an active infection with a virus following the completion of the transplant.

Bennett died on March 8, and according to Dr. Bartley Griffith of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, traces of a virus that is known to infect pigs was found in Bennett. Notably, Griffith says that the traces of animal virus may have impacted Bennett's condition, and contributed towards his sudden decline in health.

The pig was screened for the virus, but the tests only picked up active infections and not dormant ones. Upon further screening, the virus was found in the pig's spleen. Dr. Griffith said that the virus may have "hitched a ride" into Bennett via the transplanted heart.

"So we started thinking that the virus that showed up very early at Day 20 as just a twinkle started to grow in time, and it may have been the actor - it could have been the actor - that set this all off," said, Dr. Griffith

"Did this contribute to the patient's demise? The answer is obviously, we don't know, but it might have contributed to his overall not doing well," said Dr. Jay Fishman, associate director of the transplantation center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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