A new virus that essentially eliminated a group of monkeys two years ago somehow infected humans; the first adenovirus to make such a leap across species.
In 2009, scientists at the University of California- San Francisco Viral Diagnostics center found that a devastating virus eradicated 19 out of 23 titi monkeys in the California Primate National Research center.
Respiratory infections soon gave way to something more insidious. During that same time, a researcher and two of the researcher’s family members became ill with lesser symptoms, but recovered fully.
Scientists were able to identify the virus using an innovative form of technology, the microarray Virochip, created at UCSF that can reportedly identify any type of virus existing today as well as any new forms of viruses.
Antibodies of the titi monkey adenovirus antibodies (TMAdV) were also found in all infected, minus one family member.
“Now adenoviruses can be added to the list of pathogens that have the ability to cross species,” said Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and infectious diseases at UCSF and director of the viral diagnostics center. “It’s been hinted at before, but this study is the first to document these viruses crossing the species barrier in real time.”
However, the new adenovirus is unique in its own right. The virus is starkly different from any other adenovirus known. Its closest relative’s DNA is only 56% similar.
Adenoviruses are common viruses that are known to infect both humans and animals. Common symptoms are usually upper respiratory in nature, but can be gastrointestinal as well. These viruses were previously considered unique from other types of viruses such as influenza or coronaviruses, in that they do not usually jump from one species to another.
“This is clearly a new species of adenovirus and it’s quite different from anything we’ve seen previously,” said Chiu. “Given the unusually high fatality rate of TMAdV in the titi monkeys, they are not likely to be the native host species for this virus. We still don’t know what species is the natural host.”
Scientists at UCSF are still trying to uncover the origin of the virus. Chiu states that one rhesus monkey with the same TMAdV antibodies was found, but titi monkeys are New World; indicating that the virus may have transferred from one type of monkey to the next.
Scientists are conducting further studies to understand the origin of this new virus.
This article is published in the current issue of PLoS Pathogens.
Eureka Press Release