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Medical News and Perspectives
June 22/29, 2005

New Human Retroviruses Discovered

JAMA. 2005;293(24):2989-2990. doi:10.1001/jama.293.24.2989

The path that HIV is believed to have traveled, from nonhuman primates in central Africa to the humans who have direct contact with them, may be a well-beaten one.

Cross-species transmission of retroviruses was once thought to be a rare event. Now, however, the discovery of two new primate retroviruses adds to the evidence that these viruses may be actively and frequently jumping the species barrier.

The new retroviruses, like several previously identified ones, were found among individuals in southern Cameroon who hunt, butcher, or keep monkeys or apes as pets. The research (a collaborative effort by researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] in Atlanta; the Army Health Research Center in Yaounde, Cameroon; the Henry M. Jackson Foundation in Rockville, Md; and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, also in Rockville) was published in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.pnas.org) in May.

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