First Human Cases of Two Retroviruses Discovered Among People in Contact With Monkey Meat in Cameroon
February 28, 2005
Scientists have detected the first human cases of two retroviruses among two people in rural Cameroon who hunt monkeys and other primates, according to a study presented on Friday at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, the New York Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 2/26). Scientists from CDC and Johns Hopkins University discovered the first human cases of the retroviruses -- called Human T-Lymphotomic Virus types 3 and 4 -- while studying 930 residents of Cameroon who were "in frequent contact with monkey meat," AFP/Australian reports. To date, there has been no evidence of transmission of HTLV-3 or HTLV-4 from human to human and the viruses have not been linked to any disease. Research has begun in Cameroon to evaluate the health of people living with the virus and to contact their sexual partners, according to Dr. Walid Heneine, a CDC virologist who led the study. According to CDC, about 22 million people worldwide have HTLV-1, which has been known to cause leukemia and inflammation, or HTLV-2, which has been linked to neurological problems. About 5% of people with HTLV-1 or HTLV-2 develop a related illness (AFP/Australian, 2/27). Although HTLV-3 and HTLV-4 have not been associated yet with disease among people, HTLV viruses -- like HIV -- can have incubation periods that can last decades, Reuters reports (Fox, Reuters, 2/25). The study findings indicate that "the sort of cross-species infection that first put the AIDS virus into human beings continues today and probably is not rare," according to the Washington Post (Brown, Washington Post, 2/26).
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