Asian Urban monkeys may be a source of various pathogenic viruses and the transmission of these viruses to humans are high due to contacts of humans with monkeys. Researchers from University of Washington have undergone a test of isolation of different viruses from 20 urban macaques and the test results showed that more than 10 macques harbored retroviruses. The results indicate that contact with performing monkeys, which is common in many Asian countries, could represent a little-known path for viruses to jump the species barrier from monkeys to humans and eventually cause human disease. It is known that HIV in humans, is believed to have originated as a primate virus and jumped the species barrier to humans when African bushmeat hunters came into contact with blood from infected animals.
The Researchers found that about half of the macaques tested positive for simian foamy virus (SFV), a primate retrovirus that so far has not been shown to cause disease in humans, but that has been detected in other monkey-human interaction settings in Asia. Two of the monkeys tested positive for simian retrovirus (SRV), which, though it has been shown to infect humans in a laboratory setting, has yet to be associated with any disease in humans. However, both SRV and SFV are retroviruses, which are typically slow-acting in their host, so it could be many years before physicians know the effects of those virus exposures. One monkey tested positive for simian T-cell lymphotropic virus (STLV), which is believed to be the primate ancestor to the human version of the virus, HTLV, a known cause of T-cell leukemia in people. One macaque tested positive for herpes B virus, also known as CHV-1, which rarely infects humans, but, in the 40 known human cases, was associated with an 80 percent fatality rate.
The researchers urge the monkey perfromers to take precautions around performing monkeys, by preventing the animals from climbing on them and by keeping food away from the macaques. Such precautions can help reduce the risk of bites and scratches from the monkeys, which could prevent transmission of virus infection to humans from monkeys.