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European Parliamentarians Call for Moratorium on Xenotransplantation

STRASBOURG, 29.01.99 - European Parliamentarians today called for a moratorium on xenotransplantation until this new technology -- which uses animal parts for human transplants -- is evaluated and guidelines established and agreed.

Fears of a threat to public health promoted the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to call for the world-wide ban. "The risks involved in allowing xenotransplantation in clinics is currently too high to be acceptable. Much more research is needed before we will have satisfactorily answered all the unanswered questions," said Jean-Francois Mattei (France, LDR), who presented the report in the absence of its author Gian Reto Plattner (Switzerland, Soc.).

Mr Mattei said that although transplant technology could be of benefit, and tissue from pigs was already used in heart valve operations, careful study was necessary.

A major obstacle to the current use of human tissues for transplants was the lack of donors, he said. In the USA alone some 50,000 patients were awaiting transplants from the less than 5000 annual donors and around 3000 people die a year because no donor is available. Using animal tissue would up the availability of organs, and gene therapy could also help circumvent the problems of donor rejection.

But the serious risk of disease transfer had to be weighed against the potential benefits said Mr Mattei. Virulent viral diseases such as Ebola and Marburg were known to transmit from monkeys to humans and recent evidence has suggested that diseases such as Creuzfeldt Jakob originated in animal spongiform encephalopathies such as mad cow disease.

The Assembly also asked the Council of Europe Public Health and Bioethics Committees to work hand in hand with the World Health Organisation on a strategy which balances ethical, medical, scientific, legal, social and public health issues before human clinical trials continue.

Source: Council of Europe
Press Contact for Council of Europe
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