Colds and flu

29 July 2013

Monkey virus could jump species barrier

A new virus that can spread from monkey to monkey may also be able to spread from monkeys to humans, a new study finds.


A new and highly lethal type of virus that can spread from monkey to monkey may also be able to spread from monkeys to humans, a new study finds.

This virus is a new type of adenovirus, viruses that commonly affect people and cause colds, flu-like symptoms and sometimes even death.

The new pathogen was identified during an outbreak at a New World colony of titi monkeys in California in 2009. Most of the monkeys infected during the outbreak died.

At the time, a scientist who worked with the monkeys, as well as one member of the scientist's family, became ill and were found to have antibodies to the virus.

In this study, researchers exposed three marmoset monkeys to the same virus and all three developed a mild "cold-like" respiratory illness and an antibody response to the infection. All three monkeys recovered within 12 days.

The findings, published July 24 in the online journal PLoS One, prove that the new virus can infect and cause disease in different primate species, said team leader Dr Charles Chiu, director of the Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

Potential to spread

"This study raises more concerns about the potential of unknown viruses to spread from animals to humans," Chiu added in a university news release. "We still don't understand the full extent of viruses that exist in the world and their potential to cause outbreaks in human populations."

To date, these types of adenoviruses, "have not generally been linked to cross-species infections between monkeys and humans," noted Chiu, an assistant professor of medicine at UCSF. The findings suggest that adenoviruses should be added to the list of animal pathogens that could jump the species barrier to infect humans, he said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about adenoviruses.

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Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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