New contracts planned to ensure pig viruses do not spread to humans

Transplant patients who receive pigs' hearts and lungs could be banned from having children under plans being considered by health experts.

Transplant patients who receive pigs' hearts and lungs could be banned from having children under plans being considered by health experts.

They may have to sign a pledge never to have children and also agree to have their sexual partners registered and monitored by medical authorities.

The contracts are part of a raft of safeguards being discussed by Britain's regulatory body on transplants between animals and humans.

The aim of the stringent safety measures currently being considered by experts is to ensure that pig viruses do not spread to humans.

The Government gave the go-ahead to research on the use of pigs for transplants because of the chronic shortage of human organs.

Britain has a herd of pigs bred by scientists for the purpose. Doctors in the US have already performed successful operations using pig cells.

No licence for the transplant of a pig organ into a human has been granted, but the first application is thought to be imminent, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The contracts could require patients about to receive pigs' hearts or lungs to agree to "use barrier contraception consistently and for life" and never to give blood.

Health monitoring teams could be called in to check "household members and other sexual partners and others whom the recipients may engage in activities in which bodily fluids may be exchanged".

Details of samples would be held on a confidential database. The GPs of people who have made sexual contact with transplant patients will be kept informed.

The guidelines are set out in a consultation document on the "monitoring and surveillance of potential infections associated with xeno-transplantation", seen by the Telegraph.

The document has been compiled by scientific experts on the infection surveillance steering group of the United Kingdom xeno-transplantation interim regulatory authority (UKXIRA).

The authority was appointed by the government to examine the medical and ethical implications of such operations. The report will be discussed by the full regulatory body in December.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said that consultation documents were regularly produced to cover all eventualities before transplant licences were granted.

"UKXIRA is a long long way from setting any rules, these are simply consultation documents," she said.

"The public can be reassured that by the time that xeno-transplantation is a reality in this country, their health will be protected because every issue involved would have been considered."

Anti-vivisection groups, opposed to the use of animal organs in humans, said that the proposed monitoring was "intrusive".

This year a 39-year-old US woman became the first stroke victim to receive a transplant of pig's foetal cells to her brain.