an HIV-like virus soon responsible for a new pandemic?

Titled “The arteriviruses responsible for primate hemorrhagic fever are about to spread to humans,” a new American study published in the journal Cell on September 30 shows thata virus already endemic in primates is “on the verge of spreading” to humans. Are experts announcing a new pandemic? Medisite takes stock.

Arterivirus: A virus that causes life-threatening symptoms

According to researchers at the University of Colorado, a new virus in the arterivirus family is “on the verge of spreading” to humans. This virus causes deadly symptoms comparable to those of the Ebola type, such as:

  • Fever ;
  • Retention of water in the tissues of the body;
  • Anorexia;
  • Internal bleeding.

Scientists who have studied this virus in primates have observed devastating effects in monkeys. Indeed, the animals would mostly die within two weeks of infection. The fear of experts: “Infected monkeys can carry high viral loads. In some places, primates of these species interact with humans in a direct and often aggressive manner, resulting in a high risk of exposure to humans.”

A virus capable of accessing human cells

According to professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Sara Sawyer, lead author of the study: “This virus discovered how to access human cellsmultiplying and evading some important immunological mechanisms that we hope to protect ourselves from an animal virus, that’s very rare.” She added, “We have to pay attention to that.” Indeed, similar to the virus responsible for HIV, arterivirus also hijacks the immune system and disables the main defense mechanisms by breaking down the body, cell by cell, fixing itself in the body in the long term. “Our hope is that by raising awareness of the viruses that we should be on the lookout for, we can get ahead of the game, so that if human infections start happening, we will be there quickly,” notes the professor of molecular, cell biology. and biological. . development officer Sara Sawyer. Like many scientists, Sara Sawyer believes the Covid-19 pandemic is far from the last pandemic humans will experience.

How to avoid zoonoses?

Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.. In terms of zoonosis, prevention is one of the main lines of action. It is more specifically about:

  • Assess the risks;
  • Reduce biological risks;
  • Implement hygiene measures (individual, collective, professional);
  • Inform and train professionals.

The goal is break the chain of transmission. According to the WHO, “methods of preventing zoonoses differ for each pathogen; however, several practices are known to be effective in reducing risk at the community and personal levels”. This is the case of compliance with water quality standards, animal feeding, hand washing and general information campaigns on zoonoses.

What are the occupational activities at risk?

According to INRSThe professional activities concerning zoonoses are very varied:

  • farms
  • animal trade (cattle or pets)
  • zoos
  • slaughterhouses
  • work in the forest (loggers, rangers, etc.)
  • rendering
  • environmental professions (collection and treatment of wastewater and waste, maintenance of banks, rivers and canals,)
  • customs
  • taxidermy

Preventing the risk of zoonoses from occurring requires break the chain of transmission and requires compliance with strict prevention rules laid down for employees in each sector of activity.

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