4 new details on pig heart transplant patient's death 

The autopsy of the first patient to successfully receive a pig heart did not show evidence of rejection of the transplant, Baltimore-based University of Maryland researchers involved with the procedure said June 27. 

David Bennett, 57, of Maryland received the heart in a historic procedure Jan. 7. Officials confirmed he died on March 8. Cytomegalovirus, a common virus among pigs, may have been one of several factors in his death, USAToday reported May 5.

Researchers published more findings about the procedure June 22 in The New England Journal of Medicine

"We were pioneers with this first-in-the-world surgery, and we have learned so much from this experience," said Christine Lau, MD, study co-author. "I think we have moved the field of transplantation one important step closer to making this a clinical reality for patients in need."

Three more key notes: 

  • Several factors may have contributed to Mr. Bennett's heart failure, including the use of intravenous immunoglobulin, which was given to the patient twice during the second month after the transplant to help prevent rejection and infection. 

  • Investigations have not found evidence that cytomegalovirus caused an infection in the patient or infected any tissues or organs. 

  • More sophisticated testing techniques are being developed and validated to ensure that the virus or any other does not go undetected in future clinical trials.

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