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article imageMonkeys contracted bacterial pathogen from humans

By Tim Sandle     Aug 3, 2016 in Science
Warwick - There are many cases of zoonotic infections, where pathogens are transferred from an animal to a person (Ebola virus is an example.) However, no cases, until now, have been reported the other way around (human to animal.)
The new case concerns green monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus) in The Gambia acquiring Staphylococcus aureus bacteria from close contact with humans. The research is important because it suggests fluidity between animal-to-human pathogen transmission and such findings could have implications for disease spread, especially during times of an epidemic.
The finding came about after microbiologists isolated strains of the S. aureus bacterium from the noses of monkeys in The Gambia. Next, using advanced high-throughput molecular sequencing, the researchers compared the isolated strains alongside bacterial strains taken from humans who lived in the same locale. The sequencing method allowed the strains to be compared at a very detailed level.
According to the lead researcher, Dr. Mark Pallen of the Warwick Medical School, U.K., “The results showed that monkeys had acquired S. aureus strains from humans on multiple occasions.”
Interestingly the transfer of the bacteria was not a new event, and the most recent human-to-monkey transmission took place seven years ago. It is thought that the process began as a result of human encroachment into the monkeys' natural habitat. Bacteria would have been transferred from people via their hands to food, and the food then fed to monkeys.
At present the results suggest no transfer of S. aureus from monkeys back to humans. It is also of interest that the bacteria have undergone modification as they have adapted to the monkey hosts.
yano (@atikaayob): "They're using monkey to test for the presence of Staphylococcus aureus. Aaaawwww poor monkey 🐒😔."
The research may just be the start of something bigger and more cases of human-to-animal pathogen transfer could be detected. This is especially so given the patterns seen in recent years where there has been an increase in human encroachment on wild ecosystems coupled with an increase in travel, especially clustered around so-called “ecotourism” where visitors look to gain a closer look at nature.
The research into the bacterial transmission has been published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research paper is titled “Whole-genome sequencing reveals transmission of Staphylococcus aureus from humans to green monkeys in The Gambia.”
More about Pathogens, zoonotic diseases, Monkeys, Bacteria, Infection
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