The warning comes from an American research team calling for greater surveillance by the global health community for the monkey hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV), a pathogen that causes Ebola-like disease in some non-human primates.
A disturbing family of viruses, called Arterivirus and known to cause an Ebola-like disease in some monkeys, it would be “ready to spillover”, that is, to make the leap of species and infect humans. The warning comes from a research team at the University of Colorado in Boulden, United States, which considers these arteriviruses, already endemic to wild African primates, a critical threat not only to macaques. but also for humans, although to date no infections have been reported in humans and it remains uncertain what the impact of these viruses in people may be, in the hypothesis in which the species jump occurs. However, the researchers are calling for greater surveillance from the global health community, evoking what has already happened with HIV, which originated in African monkeys. “The global health community could potentially avoid another pandemicSaid the team.
As stated in a study just published in the scientific journal Cellthe researchers’ attention focused on one of the members of the artivirus family, the monkey haemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV) which in macaques causes severe infection with high mortality. “This animal virus has figured out how to access human cells, multiply and escape some of the important immune mechanisms that we would expect to be able to protect us from an animal virus – explained Sara Sawyer, senior author of the study and professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado -. It is quite rare, but we should be careful”.
For nearly 15 years, Sawyer and his colleagues have been analyzing tissue samples from wild animals around the world to understand which viruses are most prone to species leap in humans. In this latest study, she and first author Cody Warren, a former postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado’s BioFrontiers Institute, showed that a cellular receptor, called CD163, plays a key role in the biology of arteriviruses, allowing the pathogen to enter cells and multiply. Through a series of laboratory experiments, the researchers also found that the monkey haemorrhagic fever virus is also remarkably adept at recognizing the human version of CD163, entering human cells, and rapidly making multiple copies of itself.
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Similar to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and its precursor, monkey immunodeficiency virus (SIV), monkey arteriviruses also appear to attack immune cells, disabling the body’s main defense mechanisms. “The similarities between this arterivirus and the monkey viruses that gave rise to the HIV epidemic are profound“Added Warren, now assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University, who nevertheless reassured about the risk of a new pandemic (“It is not forthcoming, and people need not be alarmed”).
However, scholars call for the global health community to prioritize further studies on monkey arteriviruses, develop tests for antibodies, and seriously consider monitoring of human populations living in close contact with animals that are natural hosts of this virus family.