Acellular materials of xenogenic origin are used worldwide as xenografts, and phase I trials of viable pig pancreatic islets are currently being performed. However, limited information is available on transmission of porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) after xenotransplantation and on the long-term immune response of recipients to xenoantigens. We analyzed the blood of burn patients who had received living pig-skin dressings for up to 8 wk for the presence of PERV as well as for the level and nature of their long term (maximum, 34 y) immune response against pig Ags. Although no evidence of PERV genomic material or anti-PERV Ab response was found, we observed a moderate increase in anti-aGal Abs and a high and sustained anti-non-aGal IgG response in those patients. Abs against the nonhuman sialic acid Neu5Gc constituted the anti-non-aGal response with the recognition pattern on a sialoglycan array differing from that of burn patients treated without pig skin. These data suggest that anti-Neu5Gc Abs represent a barrier for long-term acceptance of porcine xenografts. Because anti-Neu5Gc Abs can promote chronic inflammation, the long-term safety of living and acellular pig tissue implants in recipients warrants further evaluation.
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