The possibility that animal organs could be used for human transplantation has raised concern that infections from animals might be transmitted to human recipients. The term 'xenozoonoses' has been developed to describe this possibility. While many potential human pathogens have been identified in animals, screening of potential animal donors and their breeding in specific-pathogen-free facilities can reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. Indeed, from the point of view of the individual recipient, the infectious risk of xenotransplantation is likely to be less than for cadaveric allotransplantation, where donor screening must be done rapidly, focusing only on the most serious pathogens. On the other hand, cross-species transplantation raises the possibility that endogenous retroviruses of the donor might recombine in human recipients to generate as yet unknown pathogens.

While the risk of such an event is small for an individual recipient, the possibility raises a public health concern for society as a whole. This fear is heightened by the belief that AIDS in humans developed as a result of cross-species transmission of a retrovirus from nonhuman primates. Despite these theoretical concerns, national agencies responsible for public health safety have determined that it is reasonable to proceed with clinical attempts at xenotransplantation as long as donor animals are suitably screened and recipients monitored for evidence of disease transmission.

See also: Carbohydrate antigens; Chimerism, hema-

topoietic; Cobra venom factor; Complement, alternative pathway; Complement, classical pathway; Complement, membrane attack pathway; Complement receptors; Decay-accelerating factor (CD55); Endothelium; Graft rejection; Tolerance, peripheral; Transgenic animals; Transplantation.

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