Testing of meats confiscated at American airports by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has revealed that bush meat not only contains various pathogens, but also new viruses never before discovered, some of which may be dangerous to humans.
The study reveals that almost 75% of emerging infectious diseases affecting people originate from contact with wildlife. Some cases may be due to animals biting humans, but the handling and consumption of infected meats is also considered a significant route of transmission.
Researchers from the WCS and the Museum of Natural History found evidence of simian foamy viruses and 2-types of herpes viruses, which, while not dangerous to humans on their own, show the potential to evolve into the next global pandemic.
WCS researcher Dr. Denise McAloose said, "Diseases such as HIV, Ebola, swine flu, avian flu and monkey pox all originated in wildlife."
Better surveillance measures are needed to ensure this trade does not result in the emergence of new disease outbreaks in humans. Researchers have warned against eating such infected bush meat, the flesh of nonhuman primates, bats and rodents commonly hunted in and smuggled from Africa.
The study is reported in the journal PLoS One.