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Medical News & Perspectives
February 22/29, 2012

Smuggled Wildlife Products Seized at US Airports Harbor Zoonotic Viruses

JAMA. 2012;307(8):769-770. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.178

Researchers have uncovered evidence of retroviruses and herpesviruses in illegally imported wildlife products seized at several US international airports, sounding an alarm that these products could act as a conduit for disease emergence and pathogen spread (Smith KM et al. PLoS One. 2012;7[1]:e29505).

Although health experts have always been aware of risks posed by contact with certain species of wildlife, including nonhuman primates and rodents, “it hasn't been possible to quantify the risk posed by smuggled products of these species entering the United States,” said Kristine Smith, DVM, the study's lead author. “This pilot study has developed the methodology to begin to achieve this goal,” said Smith, an associate director for health and policy at EcoHealth Alliance, an international nonprofit conservation organization based in New York City.