Vital virus findings

Monkey business in the lab

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have confirmed that an adenovirus that devastated a California monkey colony two years ago was passed on to a human researcher, the first known case of a virus of its sort “jumping” from one species to another and remaining contagious, according to a UCSF press release.

UCSF’s Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center, the same hub that identified the virus when the outbreak occurred in 2009 within the monkey colony at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, confirmed that the virus found in New World titi monkeys is the same one subsequently detected in a researcher who had cared for the sick monkeys. A member of the researcher’s family also became ill from the virus.

The individuals recovered without treatment, but the incident has stirred questions about whether the adenovirus—a type of virus that affects humans and monkeys and often causes respiratory illness—originated in humans or monkeys, and if Old World monkeys have an immunity to it. The new virus—dubbed titi monkey adenovirus (TMAdV)—is so unusual that it shares only slightly more than half of its DNA with its closest viral relative.