National Campaign Launched to Halt Xenotransplantation
Coalition Calling for an End to Animal-to-Human Transplants
Cites Unprecedented Risk of New Viral Epidemics
Formed to counter the irresponsible rush to transplant animal organs into people, the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation (CRT) is the first broad-based coalition to tackle the issue. Composed of scientists, health care professionals and public interest groups - including the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), and the Medical Research Modernization Committee (MRMC) - CRT plans to call attention to current government policy supporting the risky experiments.
Members of the campaign will attend the National Institutes of Health's meeting, "Developing U.S. Public Health Service Policy in Xenotransplantation," to be held January 21st and 22nd from 8:30am - 6:00pm at the William Natcher Conference Center (on the NIH campus) in Bethesda. A report, outlining the medical, scientific, economic, and environmental problems associated with the technology, will be distributed by the group.
"The Hong Kong bird flu is just the latest outbreak of animal viruses infecting and killing humans," says Alix Fano, CRT representative and executive director of the MRMC. "Putting an animal organ into an immune-suppressed transplant patient could open a Pandora's box of new, fatal infectious agents."
Primate researchers have died from the monkey-borne herpes B and Marburg viruses. It is widely believed that HIV jumped from monkeys to humans, causing the worldwide AIDS crisis. Health authorities were unable to prevent Ebola outbreaks in Africa and the US from contact with infected chimpanzee tissue. British researchers recently discovered several new pig viruses - active in pigs' hearts, spleens and kidneys - that can infect human cells. Yet at least three US hospitals have received government approval to perform risky human experiments using genetically engineered pig organs. All previous animal organ recipients - such as Baby Fae, have died from severe complications and hyperacute rejection soon after surgery.
"We want to know why the NIH is funding these dangerous procedures, why the Centers for Disease Control is allowing them, and why the Food and Drug Administration is approving them," says Fano.
Recipients of animal organs could become viral timebombs, infecting scores of people with a zoonotic virus, particularly if that virus were to become airborne. If a xenograft recipient were to incubate a virus and travel abroad, it would be impossible to track the source and spread of infection. Public health agencies would be ill-prepared to deal with such a scenario. CRT is calling for the US government to halt animal-to-human transplants.