I LOVE talking about PERVs on ERV.
I LOVE PERVs!
Well… PERVs as in
Piggie Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses. Not pervs as in Catholic Priests and Teh Popes advisers. Thats a different story.
Because the need for organs for transplants is so high, and because pigs are pretty great sources for transplants in humans, and because of recent successes with minimal PERV-pigs down-under, a lot of research has gone into PERVs to really try to nail down just how big of a threat they are to humans.
The problem is, PERVs can ‘infect’ human cells. But as some of you who have been following the XMRV story might note— being able to infect the cells of a creature in tissue culture, or the creature itself, might not be a big deal in and of itself. For a virus to be ‘bad’, its got to be able to infect the creature, that creature needs to get sick in some non-treatable way, and the creature needs to be able to spread that virus to other creatures.
A few recent papers have pointed out that, while yes, PERVs can ‘infect’ human cells, in real life, its just not an issue we need to worry about.
1– PERVs are restricted by human APOBECs.
This is just like what has been observed with XMRV. Yes, you can ‘infect’ cells, but the cell basically becomes the cockroach-hotel, as in ‘cockroaches check in, but they dont check out’. PERVs infect human cells, but they dont check out.
2– PERVs are not found in transplant recipients
There are a few settings where people have been allowed to get transplants from pigs in situations where PERVs might be transmitted. Despite the fact these patients are on immunosuppressive drugs to help the transplant take hold, PERVs are not popping up in these patients. PERVs are also not showing up in lab workers involved with these transplants.
Science: It can turn fears that were once rational (PERVs from pig xenographs might infect humans and cause a new world-wide pandemic a la HIV-1) into silliness, or turn fears into facts you need to address.
Its starting to become silly to worry about PERVs.