The new strain, however, had never before been identified, Chiu said.
"This is almost certainly a new species of adenovirus," Chiu said. "By looking at the 'sequence divergence', or how different the genetic sequence of this adenovirus is relatively to other adenoviruses, we believe it is a new species."
The scientist who fell ill had been in close contact with the monkeys. Though she became seriously ill with pneumonia around the same time the monkeys were falling ill, she was not hospitalized and recovered after about four weeks, Chiu said.
Her blood tested positive for antibodies to the virus three months after the epidemic, Chiu said. While not a definitive test, Chiu said it's very likely the cause of her illness was the new adenovirus.
Infectious disease and public health experts are always on the lookout for new viruses that pose a threat to people, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and president and CEO of St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y.
While this sort of event makes infectious disease experts sit up and take notice, "it's not something to be nervous about or worried about today," Glatt said. "There is not a novel adenovirus associated with a deadly outbreak in humans, but it's very interesting from a scientific point of view."
While other viruses can infect more than one species, adenoviruses tend to be species-specific, which makes this somewhat unusual, he said. But as of now, there is no evidence of an outbreak of the virus outside that single monkey colony in Davis, Glatt added.
Chiu and his colleagues are trying to determine the origin of the virus, including whether it started as a monkey virus or began in a human and was passed to the monkeys. Sin
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