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First documented case of a cold jumping from monkeys to humans

Illustration for article titled First documented case of a cold jumping from monkeys to humans

UCSF researchers have confirmed that one of their own has been stricken with an adenovirus that has jumped from a population of New World Titi monkeys. What's more, scientists believe that the virus came from a third species before moving to the Titis.


Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that cause symptoms like coughing and sniffling, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Anyone who has had the 'common cold,' has had an adenovirus. They're known to plague certain mammals, like rodents, monkeys, and humans, but until now there has never been a proven case of an adenovirus jumping from one population to another. Recently, though, a lab population of New World Titi monkeys came down with a mysterious virus that caused massive respiratory problems.

The California National Primate Research Center named the virus titi monkey adenovirus or TMAdV, and watched its progress with some concern. A third of the captive population became infected. That infection progressed to pneumonia, and 83 percent of the sick monkeys died.


They were more concerned when they learned that a researcher had come down with a cough, chills, and fever while they had been taking care of the monkeys. Two members of the researcher's family eventually a similar illness. Fortunately, TMAdV seems to be relatively mild in humans. Although the people had symptoms for about four weeks, none of them required medical treatment. By the time the sickness was reported, the virus had disappeared from the researcher's bloodstream, but comparison of the antibodies in the blood of the researcher, the family members, and the monkeys showed that two of the humans and all of the monkeys had had the TMAdV virus.

A study of TMAdV has shown that it's relatively uncommon in both monkeys and humans, leading scientists to believe that the virus crossed over from yet another species. An Old World Rhesus monkey was shown to have anitbodies to TMAdV. The virus may by common among that population, and had spread in the lab to the New World monkeys and then to the human, none of which had proper defenses against it. Researchers are now conducting a study to see if any wild populations of monkeys have the virus, and whether any nearby humans may have contracted it.

Via PLoS Pathogens.

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