According to American researchers, a highly deadly virus in monkeys in Africa is “on the verge of spreading” to humans. It causes symptoms such as fever or internal bleeding.
The start of a new pandemic threat ? A new virus, from the family of artérivirus – already endemic in African monkeys – could be “about to spread” in humans, according to a study by University of Colorado researchers published Sept. 30 in the journal Cell. The virus causes deadly and devastating Ebola-like symptoms such as fever, fluid retention in body tissues, anorexia or internal bleeding. In infected monkeys, it is fatal in most cases within two weeks of infection.
To the image of HIV, another well-known virus and also born in African monkeys, the arterivirus hijacks the immune system, disables the main defense mechanisms and breaks down the body cell by cell as it takes hold in the body long-term.
“This virus has discovered how to gain access to human cells, multiply and evade some important immune mechanisms that we expect to protect ourselves from an animal virus, it’s quite rare.”, said professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology Sara Sawyer, lead author of the study. “We have to pay attention to it.”
A virus to watch out for
And no cases have yet been diagnosed and formalized in humans, the researchers cannot guarantee that no human has been in contact with the arterivirus, nor do they know what impact the virus would have on humans if it were to change its ‘species. “Just because we haven’t yet diagnosed human arterivirus infection doesn’t mean no humans have been exposed.”confirmed Professor Cody Warren, co-author of the study.
To avoid a pandemic like Covid-19, both in animals and humans, researchers call for vigilance and recommend that the global health community develop tests quickly and monitor the virus closely “right now”. They nevertheless reassure by stressing that this new pandemic is not imminent, and that the general public does not have to worry for the moment.
“Covid is just the latest in a long series of spillover events from animals to humanssome of which have erupted into global disasters“, said Professor Sara Sawyer. “Our hope is that by raising awareness of the viruses we should be watching for, we can get ahead of the game, so that if human infections start happening, we’ll be there quickly..”
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