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Xenotransplantation

PRESS RELEASE from PHYSICIANS AND SCIENTISTS FOR RESPONSIBLE GENETICS
16 October 2001


Xenotransplantation

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics (PSRG) welcomes the Health Canada Report giving recommendations for xenotransplants. The Report follows discussions in Ottawa in 2000 by experts from Europe and North America.

Xenotransplantation is the transplantation of organs between species - e.g. an organ from a pig or baboon transplanted into a human. Pigs are seen as particularly suitable for transplants for humans.

The Health Canada report was compiled by Dr Marian Laderoute, an expert on infectious diseases. The Report claims transplanting animal organs into humans could give rise to a deadly new epidemic and it is imperative that safeguards are implemented. There is no legislation to stop a xenotransplant taking place at any time if it met current regulatory requirements.

Dr Laderoute expounded. Allowing that infectious diseases such as AIDS and the human version of mad cow disease originated in the animal world, there are grave concerns about organs and tissue from other species introducing a dangerous new disease to the human race. The risks of xenotransplantation are as yet undefined. Some data suggests hepatitis E could cross the species barrier. Hepatitis E can be fatal to foetuses and pregnant women. There are concerns also that, while not proven, PERVs - viruses embedded in pig DNA - could produce infections that are latent for long periods before resulting in human disease.

The Report calls for the assessment and containment of this risk at the clinical trial level. It
lists as precautionary *a national patient registry charting problems following animal transplant, *a special laboratory to test the patients, *a committee of experts to oversee procedures, and *an emergency plan in the event of any disease outbreak of being traced to xenotransplants.

Health Canada has drafted guidelines from the Report’s proposals and consulted with public. PSRG urge the New Zealand government to do likewise.

(303 words)

440a Otumoetai Road, TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND
Telephone and fax 64 7 576 5721
E-mail roberta@clear.net.nz
16 October 2001

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