Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses and Xenotransplantation, 2021

Viruses. 2021 Oct 26;13(11):2156. doi: 10.3390/v13112156.


Porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) are integrated in the genome of all pigs, and some of them are able to infect human cells. Therefore, PERVs pose a risk for xenotransplantation, the transplantation of pig cells, tissues, or organ to humans in order to alleviate the shortage of human donor organs. Up to 2021, a huge body of knowledge about PERVs has been accumulated regarding their biology, including replication, recombination, origin, host range, and immunosuppressive properties. Until now, no PERV transmission has been observed in clinical trials transplanting pig islet cells into diabetic humans, in preclinical trials transplanting pig cells and organs into nonhuman primates with remarkable long survival times of the transplant, and in infection experiments with several animal species. Nevertheless, in order to prevent virus transmission to the recipient, numerous strategies have been developed, including selection of PERV-C-free animals, RNA interference, antiviral drugs, vaccination, and genome editing. Furthermore, at present there are no more experimental approaches to evaluate the full risk until we move to the clinic.

Keywords: gammaretroviruses; porcine endogenous retroviruses; virus safety; xenotransplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endogenous Retroviruses* / genetics
  • Endogenous Retroviruses* / isolation & purification
  • Endogenous Retroviruses* / physiology
  • Gammaretrovirus / genetics
  • Host Specificity
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Retroviridae Infections / drug therapy
  • Retroviridae Infections / prevention & control
  • Retroviridae Infections / transmission
  • Retroviridae Infections / virology*
  • Swine / virology*
  • Swine Diseases / virology*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous*
  • Zoonoses / virology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents