WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, JEFF KUBINA
The same virus that caused the death of 19 monkeys two years ago also infected humans, according to a new report in PLoS Pathogens. In May 2009, 23 titi monkeys at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis became sick with an adenovirus, a large DNA virus that commonly causes respiratory infections in humans and various illnesses in other animals, but was not known to jump between species, ScienceNOW reports.
"It's always been thought that adenoviruses are not likely to be causes of outbreaks or pandemics because they have never been known to cross between animals and humans," lead author Charles Chiu, director of the UCSF–Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Nature.
But while searching for the source of the outbreak, a research team from the University of California, San Francisco, found that a lab worker and one of her family members, who never came in contact with the monkeys, had both become sick with the virus—demonstrating that the virus can also infect humans. It is the first time an adenovirus has been documented to cross between animals and humans, though scientists still do not know if the original host of the virus was humans, monkeys, or another organism.