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Novel Virus 'Jumped' From Monkeys to Humans, Researchers Find
Date:7/15/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- A novel version of a virus responsible for many well-known illnesses in humans and animals has managed to jump from one species and spark infection in another, according to researchers.

This "jumping" virus is from the adenovirus family, responsible for the common cold, croup, pneumonia and many other illnesses in humans. Until now -- unlike other types of viruses -- these particular germs have not been thought capable of cross-species transmission.

The finding stems from a high-tech investigation of a 2009 California laboratory outbreak that ravaged a population of New World titi research monkeys. The never-before-seen virus that caused a high rate of death among the primates is the same virus that sickened a lab researcher who had come into direct contact with the infected animals, the scientists reported.

And once the virus migrated to a human host, it continued its travels, infecting a member of the researcher's family, who had no history of exposure to any infected animal.

"Adenoviruses have been thought to be species-specific," said study lead author Dr. Charles Chiu, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. "That's been the traditional thinking. But we found a novel adenovirus that is unlike any other virus that's been previously described. And it appears to be able to cross species," he added.

"But I definitely don't want to alarm people," said Chiu, who also serves as director of the UCSF Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center, which led the current investigation. "Yes, this was a very deadly virus among the monkeys -- perhaps the deadliest adenovirus ever seen. But this happened two years ago now, and we haven't seen any evidence at all that this virus or any virus of its kind has continued to spread through the human population."

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