Another monkey virus that could be ready to jump to humans: study

Researchers are calling for vigilance in a new study that outlines a little-known family of viruses that cause Ebola-like symptoms in some monkey species, warning that one of these viruses could soon spread to other monkeys. People.

Simian hemorrhagic fever, an Artevirus that is endemic to wild African primates and mainly affects macaques, could potentially become the next monkeypox, the researchers say. or even the next HIV in the future, the researchers said.

While there have never been any cases of human infection with these viruses, experts warn that we should monitor them now.

“This animal virus has found a way to enter human cells, replicate itself, and get rid of some of the key immune mechanisms we expect to protect us from animal viruses. That’s pretty rare,” said Sara Sawyer, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado Boulder and lead author of the study, in a press release.

“We should pay attention to it.”

The study, published last week in the scientific journal Cell, looked at how simian hemorrhagic fever (SHFV) uses a specific cell receptor to infect target cells — a receptor that also exists. in human cells.

Arterivirus has been studied in pigs and horses, but versions that target non-human primates are still poorly understood. SHFV causes a deadly disease in monkeys, with symptoms of internal bleeding and fever similar to Ebola. Usually, SHFV leads to death for infected monkeys.

The researchers found that SHFV uses a specific cell receptor called CD163 to infect monkeys. The study found that primates with differences in this receptor were sometimes less susceptible to SHFV infection, demonstrating the importance of this receptor.

The researchers realized that all the proteins needed for SHFV to replicate inside the host were also present in human cells, although they were expressed differently in the human body.

To test whether the virus was capable of infecting humans, they performed a series of laboratory experiments with a range of apes DNA, including human DNA, and found that SHFV could infect into human cells with the human version of CD163.

The study calls this “the first barrier to successful spillover to humans.”

The researchers added SHFV to several human cell lines and discovered that SHFV can even replicate using human proteins, far beyond the ability to simply enter cells. .

The CD163 receptor is present exclusively in myeloid cells such as monocytes and macrophages, both of which are types of white blood cells. White blood cells play a huge role in our health, helping to protect our body against infections. If these cells are affected by a virus, the consequences can be dire.

So does this mean that SHFV will sweep over the next human, causing death and destruction?

Not yet – it’s important to remember that there have been no cases of this virus jumping from animals to humans. The authors emphasize that there is no pandemic outbreak at this time.

But they say worryingly the virus appears to have many of the tools it needs to start infecting people.

“The similarities are profound between this virus and the simian virus that gave rise to the pandemic,” said Cody Warren, an assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and first author of the study. HIV.

HIV’s predecessor was the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which first crossed from African monkeys into apes sometime between 1884 and 1924, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. When the virus mutates, it eventually turns into the devastating virus we know as HIV.

When HIV/AIDS began to reach epidemic proportions in humans, no treatment existed nor was there an accurate test. As of 2022, more than 40 million people worldwide have died from HIV/AIDS, the release said, and 2,000 people die from the disease every day globally.

This cautionary tale means that if we take the threat of SHFV seriously right now and work on doing more research on it, we can avoid disaster if the virus gets into people. .

“If we knew about the biology of SIV and the risks they pose earlier, could we more effectively fight the HIV pandemic earlier?” Warren said. “I believe we can have.”

There is no guarantee that SHFV will become a threat to humans, as some laboratory-proven viruses simply never do. But even if it’s not this virus, future pandemics will occur and more research is needed to track the threats, the researchers said.

“COVID is just the latest in a long string of zoonotic events, some of which have turned out to be global catastrophes,” Sawyer said. “Our hope is that by raising awareness of the viruses we should be looking for, we can overcome this, so that if human infections start to occur, we will deal with it quickly.”


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