Many Rural Africans Who Hunt, Butcher Primates for Bushmeat May Be Infected With HIV-Like Virus
March 22, 2004
Many rural Africans who hunt apes and monkeys and butcher the meat may be infected with a virus that is similar to HIV, according to a study published in the March 20 issue of the Lancet, the Baltimore Sun reports. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and CDC found that 1% of a group of 1,099 Cameroonians who reported direct contact with fresh primate blood and body fluids through hunting and butchering had antibodies to the virus, which is known as simian foamy virus. Although SFV appears to be harmless to humans, the findings show the ongoing danger of cross-species viral transmission, especially for people involved in hunting monkeys, chimpanzees and other primates for food and trade, according to the Sun. Both SFV and HIV are retroviruses; however, unlike HIV, SFV does not appear to be transmitted from human to human (Kohn, Baltimore Sun, 3/19). Researchers believe that HIV is a mutated form of simian immunodeficiency virus, which they think jumped species from primates to humans living in Central Africa in the early 20th century (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/19). Lead researcher Dr. Nathan Wolfe of Hopkins said, "Transmission of retroviruses to humans is not limited to a few isolated occurrences which led to HIV. This is a regularly occurring phenomena" (Reaney, Reuters, 3/19). He added that the continuing transmission of viruses from primates to humans "could spark future epidemics similar to HIV," the AP/Charlotte Observer reports (AP/Charlotte Observer, 3/19). According to researchers, if different viral strains of retroviruses are together in the same host, they could swap genes in the process of reproducing and eventually mutate into a harmful form (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/19).
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