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Viruses Can Cross Species Barrier

A report in the September issue of the American Journal of Primatology says that viruses that can cross the species barrier and jump from monkeys to humans //are a danger to human health. A primate expert at the University of Washington has edited this special report on disease risk analysis.

The special issue covers a range of topics, including an estimate of the viral transmission risk for visitors to a monkey temple in Indonesia, and a study showing how methods to limit contact between monkeys and humans can reduce the risk of transmission between the species. Other researchers describe how human viruses infecting monkeys and apes can wreak havoc on those animals' populations.

"Viruses are already jumping the species barrier and affecting both people and animals, and there is the potential for much worse," explained Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, a research scientist in the Division of International Programs at the UW's Washington National Primate Research Center and guest editor for the journal's special issue. "It's especially cause for concern in Asia, where people and monkeys have so much interaction, and there has been little research done on this topic."

Scientists believe that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, started out as simian immunodeficiency virus (or SIV), and jumped to humans decades ago when African bush meat hunters became infected by the monkeys they were hunting for food. Other viruses, like influenza, have also jumped species barriers with frightening results. In one article, researchers estimate that about six people out of every thousand who visit a monkey temple in Bali, Indonesia, will be infected with simian foamy virus (SFV) from a monkey bite. SFV is a primate retrovirus that so far has not been shown to cause disease in humans. Monkey temples are religious sites that have become gathering spots for populations of wild macaque monkeys fleeing deforested areas.

"This study is basically the first step in
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