Human Astroviruses Demonstrated in Macaques; Findings Challenge Dogma That Astrovirus Infections Are Species-Specific

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause infectious gastroenteritis or diarrhea in humans. “If you are a bat, you have bat astrovirus, but if you are a monkey, you could have everything,” said Lisa Jones-Engel, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of Washington National Primate Research Center and a co-author of the study, scheduled to be published on November 19, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens. The article is titled “Non-Human Primates Harbor Diverse Mammalian and Avian Astroviruses Including Those Associated with Human Infections.” This research, the scientists said, is the first to show evidence of human astroviruses in animals, and among the earliest to demonstrate that astroviruses can move between mammalian species. Astroviruses from a number of species, including human, bovine, bird, cow and dog, were detected in monkeys. This “challenges the paradigm that AstV (astrovirus) infection is species-specific,” the authors wrote. It is still unknown whether these viruses are two-way and can be transmitted to humans. The scientists did find evidence that, in monkeys, two species of astrovirus recombined. Knowing that nonhuman primates can harbor diverse astroviruses – including novel, recombinant viruses that may be pathogenic and/or more efficiently transmitted – highlights the importance of continued monitoring, the authors said. This is particularly true in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, where macaques and humans live side-by-side. “This study is an example of the concept of One Health for new viruses,” noted author Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., at St.
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