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26-07-2011 | General practice | Article

Novel adenovirus able to infect humans and monkeys


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MedWire News: A novel adenovirus - the titi monkey adenovirus (TMAdV) - has the capacity to infect both monkeys and humans, suggest results from an investigation into a recent outbreak at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC).

The outbreak occurred in May 2009, when 23 (34%) of a colony of 65 titi monkeys housed together at the CNPRC fell ill with acute respiratory symptoms that developed into fulminant pneumonia and hepatitis.

The virus was deadly, as despite intensive treatment with antibiotics and intravenous fluids, 19 of the 23 monkeys that became ill died or were humanely euthanized.

At the beginning of the outbreak the researcher working at the CNPR who had the most contact with the monkeys also became ill with a respiratory illness that lasted for 4 weeks.

Subsequently three family members who had had no contact with the titi monkeys caught a similar illness, although it appeared to be milder in form than the illness experienced by the CNPR worker and lasted for less time.

On further laboratory analysis, the human and monkey viruses were both discovered to be TMAdV. Notably, the humans who caught the virus has significantly milder symptoms than the monkeys infected with TMAdV.

Whole-genome sequencing revealed that TMAdV is a novel species that shares less than 57% of its sequence with other adenoviruses.

Charles Chiu (University of California, San Francisco, USA) and colleagues explain that although responsible for many illnesses in humans and other vertebrates, adenoviruses have always been thought to be species specific.

Therefore the finding that such a virus has the capacity to "jump" the species barrier is highly significant.

The team notes that the unusually high fatality rate (83%) among the titi monkeys suggests that they are not the originating species, as adenoviruses typically cause no more than about 18% mortality, but adds that the original source of the infection is still unknown.

"Future large-scale studies of TMAdV seroepidemiology will be needed to better understand transmission of TMAdV between monkeys and humans," say Chiu and co-workers.

"Nevertheless, our discovery of TMAdV, a novel adenovirus with the capacity to cross species barriers, highlights the need to monitor adenoviruses closely for outbreak or even pandemic potential," they conclude in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Helen Albert

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