Wild Malaysian Cynomolgus Monkeys are Exposed to Hepatitis a Virus

Donald S. BurkeDepartment of Virology, U.S. Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Department of Laboratory Animal Resources, U.S. Army Medical Research Unit, Institute for Medical Research, Rajvithi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

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Gregory B. HeiseyDepartment of Virology, U.S. Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Department of Laboratory Animal Resources, U.S. Army Medical Research Unit, Institute for Medical Research, Rajvithi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

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Serum samples were obtained within 3 days of capture from 106 cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) in peninsular Malaysia. Fifty-two monkeys were trapped on the fringes of palm oil estates and 54 in dense primary jungle. Sera were tested for antibodies to hepatitis A virus (HAV) with a commercial radioimmunoassay. Twenty-four animals had detectable serum anti-HAV activity (6 of 52 from palm oil estate sites and 18 of 54 from primary jungle sites). Among monkeys at both sites, antibody prevalence was strongly correlated with animal weight: overall only four of 69 monkeys (6%) weighing less than 2.0 kg had serum anti-HAV antibodies, while 14 of 29 (48%) weighting 2.0 to 3.9 kg, and 6 of 8 (75%) weighing 4.0 kg or more, had serum anti-HAV antibodies. These data suggest that wild cynomolgus monkeys in Malaysian jungles become infected with HAV or an HAV-like virus at a rate comparable to that of humans in the same region, and raise the possibility of a sylvatic cycle for HAV.

Author Notes

Present address: Veterinary Medicine Department, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20014.

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