Microbiological safety of porcine islets: Comparison with source pig

Juan E. Abrahante, Kyra Martins, Klearchos K. Papas, Bernhard J. Hering, Henk Jan Schuurman, Michael P. Murtaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Pig islet donors intended for clinical xenotransplantation for the treatment of diabetes must meet stringent conditions. Among others, viruses with the potential to cross the species barrier should be excluded from the herd: this list includes encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV), hepatitis E virus (HEV), porcine cytomegalovirus (PCMV) and porcine λ-lymphotropic herpesvirus (PLHV). As an islet product is isolated from the pancreas and then subjected to culture before implantation, the question is raised whether islets could be negative even if the animal itself is positive for a distinct pathogen. Methods: To answer this question, sensitive quantitative real-time PCR assays were established for EMCV, HEV, PCMV and PLHV. Twelve adult animals from a high-hygienic herd were then evaluated; testing tissues, where the virus is expected to reside in latent infection, testing islets immediately after isolation, and then isolated islets after a 7-day culture. Results: None of the tissues tested positive for EMCV, HEV or PLHV. PCMV was observed in spleen tissue from six animals: three of these six animals were positive for isolated islets, and two of these three cases were also positive for islets after culture. Older animals in particular showed positivity, and within a given litter not all animals were PCMV positive. Conclusions: These data fit with spread through the herd by horizontal transmission, not in utero infection. PCMV has to be excluded from the herd to ensure that islets for transplantation are negative for PCMV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-93
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • designated pathogen-free
  • encephalomyocarditis virus
  • hepatitis E virus
  • porcine cytomegalovirus
  • porcine islets of Langerhans
  • porcine λ-lymphotropic herpesvirus
  • qPCR -quantitative PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Transplantation


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