Wednesday, December 14, 2005

There goes my way of making some extra Christmas money...

Performing monkeys may post serious health hazard

Last Updated: 2005-12-13 16:42:53 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Long-tailed macaques used as performance monkeys in Indonesia are sometimes infected with viruses that could cross the species barrier and infect humans, investigators report.

Performance monkeys may represent a threat to humans because of the way they are bought and sold and their close proximity to humans, Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel and her associates explain.

The animals are usually obtained from animal markets where they are kept under crowded and unsanitary conditions that could compromise immunity and facilitate disease transmission. They typically live with their owners, sharing food and water. During performances, they are encouraged to climb onto spectators, where they could transmit viruses through bites or scratches.

To evaluate the potential threat, Jones-Engel, from the University of Washington in Seattle and her colleagues obtained blood specimens from 20 performing long-tailed macaques. They report their findings in the current issue of Tropical Medicine and International Health.

Two animals tested positive for to simian retrovirus, one was positive for simian T-cell lymphotropic virus, and one was positive for Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1. Further testing also revealed the presence of simian foamy virus DNA in nine monkeys.

This is significant, the authors point out, because there have been instances of monkey-to-human transmission of Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1, simian retrovirus and simian foamy virus.

Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1 causes inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord and has a high mortality rate. Infection with simian T-cell lymphotropic virus may precede human T-cell lymphotropic virus, a cause of adult T-cell leukemia and tropical spastic paresis, a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord and the central nervous system.

Further studies of performance monkey owners and their families will help determine the rates of viral transmission from these animals, Jones-Engel's group concludes.

SOURCE: Tropical Medicine International and Health, December 2005.


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