A research team led by University of Washington scientists has found that several people in South and Southeast Asian countries working and living around monkeys have been infected with simian foamy virus (SFV), a primate virus that, to date, has not been shown to cause human disease. The findings provide more evidence that Asia, where interaction between people and monkeys is common and widespread, could be an important setting for future primate-to-human viral transmission. The study appears in the August issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Disease.
Though SFV has not been found to cause any human disease, it is a slow-acting retrovirus, so it could take many years before scientists determine the effects of infection. SFV could also change at the genetic level, resulting in a new strain of the virus that would affect humans. Scientists believe that a similar process occurred with HIV, which probably originated as a virus in non-human primates in Africa before jumping the species barrier to human hosts.
In this study, researchers from the University of Washington visited several countries in Asia, interviewing and testing about 300 people who live or work closely with any one of several species of small-bodied monkeys called macaques. Eight of those participants tested positive for SFV.
The people who had contracted the virus came from a variety of places and contexts: one person lived in an urban area in Bangladesh that had a large monkey population, for instance, while two other people lived near a monkey temple in Thailand. Monkey temples are places of religious worship that have become refuges for populations of primates.
Though much of the research on viral transmission between humans and other primates has focused on Africa, UW researcher Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel has led multiple studies examining the issue in Asia. Some Asian countries are prime areas for viral transmission between monkeys and humans, she explai
|Contact: Justin Reedy|
University of Washington