DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – At least 1,000 doses of lab-grown corvina organ tissue have been used to make the artificial cornea, which, based on preliminary studies, will be more effective than traditional donor corneas in saving the sight of millions of individuals, officials said at a briefing in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where the transplant was performed.
In many of the countries where the outbreak occurred, animals with HIV were used as sources for corneas. And although the virus couldn’t infect humans, its presence in the tissues nevertheless raised a red flag, said Dr. Lawrence Kirchhoff, chief of cornea transplantation at the University of Pittsburgh.
“There has to be some concern about the (intruder) transmission,” Kirchhoff said.
Although the success rate of transplants may not be perfect, “we have a chance of preventing blindness,” said Robert Rosensweig, chief executive officer of Organogenesis, the California company that manufactures the corneas.
At least 23 people have been infected with the virus, and seven have died, according to the World Health Organization.
Officials said that for now, they are looking to see if the virus was responsible for any other eye infections.
Because scientists won’t know if their transplants are safe unless they can study these patients, they’re proceeding cautiously. They can’t know whether the corneas will cause infection for several months.