Hepatitis B Virus in Woolly Monkeys

Woolly Monkey Hepatitis B Virus is closely related to (Human) Hepatitis B Virus, with only about 20% sequence variation. Woolly Monkey Hepatitis B Virus preferentially infects the Woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha) but can also be effectively transmitted to spider monkey’s (Ateles spp)[1]. It transmits poorly in the chimpanzee, which in turn is highly susceptible to the (Human) Hepatitis B Virus. The Woolly Monkey Hepatitis B Virus usually causes chronic hepatitis in the affected animals with no or only minor symptoms.
[Image: Mark Bowler]
Viruses similar to Hepatitis B Virus have been found in all the Old World apes, such as orang-utans, gibbons, gorillas and chimpanzees, and from New World Woolley Monkey’s. These findings suggests that the virus must have a very ancient origin, maybe 300,000 years ago.

Moreover, because humans have spread the Hepatitis B Virus over the entire globe, research[2] has now demonstrated there is evidence for circulation of the different viruses between different species and sub-species of non-human primates. It signifies the danger of the emergence of newly adapted Hepatitis B Viruses.

[1] Lanford et al: An infectious clone of woolly monkey hepatitis B virus in Journal of Virology - 2003
[2] Lyons et al: Species association of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in non-human apes; evidence for recombination between gorilla and chimpanzee variants in PLoS One - 2012

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