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Viral caracterisation of “zoonotic” Foamy viruses


Simian Foamy Virus is a widespread retrovirus infecting non-human primates (NHP). It is latent in PBMCs but replicates efficiently in saliva. It can be transmitted to humans mainly by bites, giving rise to a lifelong infection. Little is known about FV replication in humans. Genomic changes and quasi-species variability in human PBMCs and saliva have not been extensively studied yet.

Materials and methods

In South Cameroon, a series of hunters bitten either by an African Green Monkey (AGM), a chimpanzee (cpz) or a gorilla (ggo) were found to be SFV-infected. Viral isolation was performed by co-cultivation of their PBMCs with BHK cells. We also analyzed quasi-species (in a 425pb-Pol fragment) from PBMCs and saliva of 9 SFVggo-infected hunters.


5 viral strains (1 SFVagm, 2 SFVcpz and 2 SFVggo) were isolated and sequenced. They are about 5-15% divergent from the corresponding prototypical sequences. Their divergence is s(ub)pecies-specific and no common genomic feature was found between the “zoonotic” strains. Quasi-species variability ranges from 0,3% in saliva to 0,5% in PBMCs. In only 2/9 cases, FV clones are clustered in two groups: PBMCs versus saliva.


In contrast with previous studies, no deletion or specific mutations have been observed in the 5 “zoonotic” FV, suggesting that FV restriction in humans is not due to genetically impaired viruses. Preliminary data indicate that quasi-species variability in saliva seems not higher than in PBMCs, which might be explained by a low replication in human saliva.

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Correspondence to Réjane Rua.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Rua, R., Betsem, E., Calattini, S. et al. Viral caracterisation of “zoonotic” Foamy viruses. Retrovirology 8 (Suppl 1), A240 (2011).

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