Approaching virus safety in xenotransplantation: a search for unrecognized herpesviruses in pigs

Xenotransplantation. 2003 Jul;10(4):349-56. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-3089.2003.02074.x.


The identification of porcine viruses so far unrecognized is required to minimize virus-related risks associated with xenotransplantation. We used a pan-herpes consensus polymerase chain reaction assay to search for unrecognized porcine species of the Herpesviridae. The assay targets conserved regions of the herpesvirus DNA polymerase (DPOL) gene, using primers that were modified to diminish the assay's recognition capacity for the highly prevalent porcine lymphotropic herpesviruses 1, 2 and 3 (PLHV-1, -2, -3), without substantially lowering the universal detection capacity of the assay. Analysis of 495 porcine blood and tissue samples from 294 animals, including 35 samples from 20 immunosuppressed pigs, resulted in the amplification of 128 herpesviral DPOL sequences. Sequence analysis attributed 127 of the amplimers to the known porcine herpesviruses (PLHV-1, -2, -3; porcine cytomegalovirus; pseudorabiesvirus). In none of the pig samples analyzed here, evidence was obtained for the presence of additional novel porcine herpesvirus species. Therefore we conclude that pigs bred for the purpose of xenotransplantation pose a negligible risk of transmitting presently unrecognized herpesviruses to organ recipients.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Herpesviridae / classification
  • Herpesviridae / genetics
  • Herpesviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Herpesviridae Infections / transmission
  • Herpesviridae Infections / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sus scrofa
  • Transplantation, Heterologous*


  • DNA, Viral