Researchers have found that monkeys which commonly dwell with people in Asia can harbour variants of a type of virus which can cause infectious gastroenteritis or diarrhoea in humans.
Knowing that non-human primates can harbour diverse astroviruses highlights the importance of continued monitoring, particularly in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, where macaques and humans live side-by-side, the researchers said.
“If you are a bat, you have bat astrovirus, but if you are a monkey, you could have everything,” said study co-author Lisa Jones-Engel, research scientist at University of Washington National Primate Research Centre.
It is still unknown whether these viruses are two-way and can be transmitted to humans from monkeys.
Astroviruses are most commonly associated with diarrheoa. They can also cause clinical diseases such as nephritis, hepatitis and encephalitis.
In this study of 879 samples of primate feces, 68 (7.7 percent) were positive for astroviruses.
The majority of the positive samples (72 percent) were 79-100 percent similar to astroviruses associated with human infections.
The team also collected blood samples, which confirmed that more than 25 percent of the monkeys had been infected with human astroviruses.
Whether the monkeys were getting sick from these viruses is unknown.
The study was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.