Background: Young people, and students in particular, generally have a positive attitude to xenotransplantation. We reported previously that university students attending their first year approved of the idea of transplanting animal organs into humans. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a 3-yr course at various faculties on the university students' understanding of and attitude to xenotransplantation.
Methods: University students in their fourth year at five different faculties of Padua University (Italy), who had previously been surveyed in exactly the same way 3 yr earlier, were re-administered an anonymous 19-item questionnaire on their attitude to xenotransplantation.
Results: A total of 453 students completed the fourth year questionnaire (84 males, 369 females; mean age 24.6 yr, range 21-36 yr). Students were attending courses in Medicine (22.1%), Veterinary Science (16.5%), Agriculture (10.4%), Educational Sciences (22.1%) and Psychology (28.9%). In their fourth year, 85% of the students knew that animal organs could, at some stage, be transplanted into humans, 81.5% approved of this idea and 84% would accept an animal organ to save their life if necessary (these percentages were 88%, 78% and 76%, respectively 3 yr earlier). A significantly larger proportion of the students who approved of xenotransplantation were attending science courses rather than art courses, while no differences emerged as regards gender. Those who refused xenotransplantation justified their position mainly on ethical-moral (41.7%) and immunological (35.7%) grounds.
Conclusion: As in their first year, so too in their fourth, University students were well informed about the feasibility of transplanting animal organs into human beings and those attending science courses were more likely to accept this idea than art students. Approval of xenotransplantation was much the same among fourth year males and females, whereas in the first year, male students had approved more than female students.