Monday, March 22, 2004

new Bug on the way

Dr Nathan Wolfe, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported in Lancet, that people in central Africa who hunt monkeys and apes for food and trade are being infected with animal viruses and researchers fear their transmission could spark a future epidemic similar to AIDS.

Scientists traced the transmission of simian foamy virus (SFV) in Cameroon, Central Africa. The scientists found antibodies for SFV in 1% of 1,099 people from nine rural villages in Cameroon that they had tested who had been exposed to non-human primate blood.

Like HIV, which causes AIDS, SFV is a retrovirus that can integrate its genetic material into the genome of its human host. New emerging viral diseases, like SARS, birdflu, Ebola and AIDS came from viruses than jumped the species barrier from animals into human beings.

But the poor people in Africa often have no choice but to rely on hunting primates as a source of protein and livelihood. Conservation issues like the preservation of highly endangered primate species aside, the world will have to deal with this potential global public health problem. the SARS epidemic last year was a good lesson. but as SARS fizzled out, people and governments are likely to become complacent so that when SARS or another new disease jumps into the global scene, we might have to re-learn all those painful lessions, bought with precious human lives, all over again.


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