LONDON (Reuters) - Chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa have
herpes-like viruses that are potentially transferable to
humans, French scientists said on Wednesday.
Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have detected and
sequenced a gene fragment from three viruses in apes that is
more closely related to the herpes virus KSHV than any other
KSHV causes Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of skin cancer in AIDS
patients. In humans the group of herpes viruses, ranging from
1-8, cause a variety of illnesses including cold sores, chicken
pox, shingles and genital herpes.
Unlike the HIV virus that leads to AIDS and which many believe
jumped species from monkeys, scientists do not think the herpes
viruses originated in apes.
"Our results indicate the great apes from central Africa could
provide a reservoir of new herpes viruses that are potentially
transmissible to humans," Dr Antoine Gessain said in a report
in the science journal Nature.
Once a person or animal is infected with the virus it persists
in the body for life.
"This kind of discovery gives us new molecular tools which can
open new areas regarding the discovery of new viruses," Gessain
"Very probably there are more herpes viruses in humans and with
these tools it will be easier to discover them," he added.