Cameroon: New Study Highlights AIDS Peril From Bushmeat Trade
December 6, 2005
For the third time in as many years, researchers are sounding the alarm over the trade in bushmeat, slaughtered chimpanzees, monkeys and gorillas, as a potential source for new pathogens. Previous studies have shown that simians are the source for HIV, and DNA sleuths speculate that the earliest case may have been a hunter or villager who was bitten by an ape or who handled meat infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).
In the new study, scientists tested the blood of three groups in Cameroon, each with a graduated exposure to bushmeat. The groups comprised 76 people in remote villages who hunted or butchered primates for food or trade or kept apes as pets; 66 people in the same villages who had low levels of such exposure; and 1,071 people who lived in urban and rural areas and were unlikely to have repeated contact with bushmeat blood or fluids.
The blood samples were tested for antibody reaction to SIV -- a sign that an individual had been exposed to SIV, but not in itself an indicator of infection or disease.
The researchers found that in the high-exposure group, 17.1 tested positive; in the low-exposure group, this dropped to 7.8 percent; and in the general population group, the rate was 2.3 percent.
"Our data ... offer new evidence that persons who hunt and butcher wild non-human primates are subject to ongoing exposure and potential infection with SIV," concluded the scientists, adding that heightened surveillance would help both to ensure a safe blood supply in Africa and to prevent the spread of "novel, emerging HIV infections." The authors noted that they could not assess the clinical risk from SIV exposure, mainly because almost no work has been done in this area.
According to Martine Peeters of the French Institute for Development Research, if different simian viruses mix in the same host, there is the risk they will swap genes and merge into a new, harmful form.
The study, "Central African Hunters Exposed to Simian Immunodeficiency Virus," was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases (2005;11(12):1928-1930).
Agence France Presse
11.21.05; Richard Ingham
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.