How the COVID-19 pandemic may impact public support for clinical xenotransplantation in the United States?Xenotransplantation. 2020 09; 27(5):e12623.X
Many patients who would undergo organ transplantation cannot proceed due to the inability of human organ donation to satisfy medical needs. Xenotransplantation has the potential to offer unlimited availability of pig organs for transplantation, and pig-to-non-human primate models have demonstrated outcomes that may soon justify clinical trials. However, one of the unique ethical challenges faced by xenotransplantation is that the risk of introducing potential zoonotic disease into the community must be weighed along with the benefit to the patient. While most experts believe that zoonosis is manageable, apprehension over disease transmission from animal donors to human recipients remains a frequent concern of many who are undecided or opposed to clinical xenotransplantation. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a scenario (rapid worldwide spread of a highly contagious novel zoonotic disease with no natural defense in humans) that would seem to justify apprehension, especially in the United States, which has largely avoided previous pandemic outbreaks. However, there are many differences between zoonosis found in the wild or after xenotransplantation that favor the safety of the latter. Still, these differences, as well as the benefits of xenotransplantation, are not widely understood outside of the field. We must therefore ask what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on attitudes toward xenotransplantation.