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Study: Ape Herpes Viruses May Be Transmissible to Humans

September 13, 2000
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 virus.

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 added.

"Very probably there are more herpes viruses in humans and with these tools it will be easier to discover them," he added.