Porcine Endogenous Retrovirus (PERV) poses an infectious risk in the field of xenotransplantation. This risk may be mitigated by breeding selectively animals bearing favorable PERV genetic characteristics including pigs with low levels of PERV integrated in the genome. A real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay employing the Roche High Resolution Melting (HRM) Master was used to estimate the relative gene dosage of PERV pol integrated within the pig genome. When assessed across 99 pigs of the Auckland Island breed numerous animals bearing low gene dosage were identified. The assay was adapted further to perform multiplex PCR for the detection of PERV infection within xenograft recipients. Besides PERV, amplification targets for the multiplex PCR include a pig cell marker for the determination of microchimerism and an internal amplification control (IAC) to assess the efficiency of nucleic acid isolation and effects of PCR inhibition. When 12 patients who had received porcine islet transplants were tested no evidence of PERV infection was found. The assay was shown to be specific, highly reproducible with superior performance over conventional nested PCR. This assay can be used as both a screening tool for PERV proviral levels within donor pigs and as a diagnostic tool to examine PERV transmission in human patients treated with porcine xenotransplantation material.
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