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Virginia Tech researchers find human virus in chimpanzees
Date:6/3/2008

has been unraveling the mystery in collaboration with scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and researchers from Japan who are conducting behavioral studies on Mahale chimpanzees.

"Exactly where this virus has come from and the specific route of transmission remains unclear at this time," said Kaur, but she admits that mounting evidence suggests a linkage between visiting scientists and tourists and the viruses that are threatening the endangered chimpanzee population.

Scientific establishment of that linkage could affect the eco-tourism industry, which is an important source of economic development in the region and has been credited with protecting the animals from poachers and the dangers of shrinking habitats for chimpanzees and other species of great apes. She believes more research must be conducted in order to protect the region through science-based changes and interventions.

Contributing to the efficacy of Kaur's scientific work is her background as a veterinarian who is board-certified by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine and her expertise in public health. "In the past, investigators have been bringing parts of the natural world into the laboratory for scientific study," she said. "Now we can bring the expertise and rigor of the laboratory into the natural world."

The researchers can do that because of the development and deployment of an innovative, eco-friendly field laboratory called "PLUG," which is an acronym for "portable laboratory on uncommon ground." After Kaur's husband and research partner, Dr. Jatinder Singh, a research assistant professor and molecular biologist, expressed frustration over "trying to conduct space-age science with stone-age tools at geographically remote study sites," the pair collaborated with Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) to develop a prototype field laboratory.

Working with Matt L
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Contact: Jeff Douglas
540-231-7911
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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