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Two New Viruses Reported Belonging to AIDS Family
NY Times ^ | February 26, 2005 | LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN

Posted on 02/25/2005 10:49:36 PM PST by neverdem

BOSTON, Feb. 25 - American scientists said Friday that they had discovered two new human viruses in Africa that belong to the same family, retroviruses, as the virus that causes AIDS.

So far, the scientists said, the new viruses have not been linked to any disease, but they are being monitored out of concern that they or similar retroviruses might conceivably spawn another epidemic.

The viruses, found in rural Cameroon among people who hunt monkeys and other primates, were probably transmitted from the animals through blood from bites and scratches received in hunting, butchering and keeping the primates as pets, the scientists said at the 12th Annual Retrovirus Conference, which ended here on Friday.

The discoveries arose from studies undertaken out of concern that another retrovirus could emerge to mushroom into another global pandemic like AIDS. Many scientists say they believe that H.I.V., the AIDS virus, mutated from a simian virus that was transmitted from nonhuman primates to hunters and then spread widely through sex and contaminated needles.

In another report at the conference, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of H.I.V. infection had doubled among blacks in the United States over a decade, to 2 percent of the black population in 1999-2002 from 1 percent in 1988-1994. The rate among whites remained at 0.2 percent in that period.

Earlier studies have also shown a widening racial gap in the epidemic. Experts have cited poverty, drug addiction and limited access to health care.

The new survey also found that the lack of knowledge about a person's H.I.V. status was a bigger barrier to treatment than the lack of access to care.

One scientist who discovered the new viruses in Africa, Dr. Walid Heneine, a virologist at the disease centers, said his team was expanding its research to determine the health status of the infected people and of their sexual partners.

The team, which includes scientists from the Johns Hopkins University, is conducting additional tests to identify other novel viruses.

The studies show that "there is frequent ongoing transmission" from nonhuman primates, Dr. Heneine told reporters in an interview.

The retroviruses, named H.T.L.V.-3 and H.T.L.V.-4, for human T-lymphotropic virus, are the newest members of a class that can cause a wide spectrum of illnesses. The retrovirus numbered 1 is a cause of leukemia and inflammatory diseases, and it and H.T.L.V.-2 can lead to neurological disease, Dr. Heneine said.

H.I.V. belongs to a different group of retroviruses.

The two older viruses infect an estimated 22 million people, Dr. Heneine said, and about 5 percent of them develop illness. As with AIDS, the time from infection to disease can be as long as several decades.

Speaking of the two new retroviruses, Dr. Heneine said that "we do not know yet" whether they will be like the older two.

Although the ultimate aim is to prevent another virus from causing an AIDS-like pandemic, Dr. Heneine said, one concern is the potential spread of the new viruses through blood transfusions. Blood banks in Africa do not test for H.T.L.V. viruses before blood and blood products are transfused, he said.

In earlier studies, scientists have tested zookeepers, animal handlers, veterinarians and others to determine how often they were exposed to viruses from viruses known to exist in nonhuman primates.

A particular interest has been so-called foamy viruses, which are not known to cause disease in humans. They have been found in 2 percent to 5 percent of such workers, Dr. Heneine said.

He called that a high rate, because "such viruses are not supposed to be in humans."

Expanding their research to exposure in natural settings, the scientists studied 930 people in Cameroon who said they were exposed to freshly hunted primate bush meat. The participants answered a questionnaire and agreed to have their blood tested for viruses.

The scientists detected the new retroviruses by using antibody, genetic and other tests in the laboratory.

In identifying what is believed to be the first documented human infection of H.T.L.V-3, the scientists found that the virus was genetically similar to a simian virus, S.T.L.V.-3.

H.T.L.V.-4 is distinct from all known human or simian viruses, Dr. Heneine said.

The team also found that 11 other participants were infected with H.T.L.V.-1 and a simian virus also numbered 1, including strains of that virus not previously identified among humans.

The team plans to test an additional 4,000 people in rural Cameroon to determine the extent of any transmission among humans.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; US: Massachusetts
KEYWORDS: aids; bloodsupply; cameroon; cdc; health; healthcare; hiv; htlv; htlv3; htlv4; retrovirus; stlv3; viruses
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To: octobersky
"Bug chasers" deliberately try to get infected with AIDS. Supposedly they do it for thrills and for the hope of becoming part of the brotherhood of the infected. Weird.
"If there is no God, then everything is permitted." --- Dostoyevsky
21 posted on 02/26/2005 3:25:08 AM PST by samtheman
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To: neverdem

Hunting of "bush meat" has been suggested as a zoonotic vector for a number of diseases.

It might be worth noting chimpanzees also hunt "bush meat";ie:human infants,and various monkey species.This is almost an ideal situation for cross-species viral mutation,IMHO.

22 posted on 02/26/2005 4:57:07 AM PST by genefromjersey (So much to flame;so little time !)
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To: neverdem
A particular interest has been so-called foamy viruses, which are not known to cause disease in humans.

Did somebody mention the Lord and Master?

23 posted on 02/26/2005 4:04:56 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Deport 'em all; let fox sort 'em out!)
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To: thoughtomator
Once the homosexuals mix it up in their anal biowarfare labs, watch out!

Deep in the bowels of the Alternate Lifestyle-Barbarian Complex!

24 posted on 02/26/2005 4:06:53 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Deport 'em all; let fox sort 'em out!)
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