What is SHFV? Scientists warn of deadly Ebola-like virus that could make jump from monkeys to humans

Experts warn the simian virus could spill over from non-human primates to human cells, potentially causing major health issues

What is SHFV? Scientists warn of deadly Ebola-like virus that could make jump from monkeys to humans
SHFV is feared to cause fatal Ebola-like symptoms which include internal bleeding and killing virtually every primate it infects (Center for Disease Control (CDC) via Getty Images)
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AFRICA: A deadly virus that lives in African monkeys could be the next big pandemic threat, warn scientists. Simian hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV) causes fatal Ebola-like symptoms and is "poised for spillover" to humans, causing internal bleeding and killing virtually every primate it infects, according to the University of Colorado Boulder.

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The virus hijacks the immune system, disabling key defense mechanisms that we rely on to defend against an animal virus, breaking the body down cell by cell. Scientists are raising alarm due to SHFV's compatibility with humans and say we should pay attention to it, to avoid another pandemic. Although there are no symptoms detected, they fear the simian virus is profoundly parallel to HIV, which originated in a type of chimpanzee in Africa.

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Volunteer doctors who will travel to West Africa to help care for Ebola patients waiting for desinfection during training offered by the German Red Cross (DRK) on October 7, 2014 in Wuerzburg, Germany. Over 1,200 people across Germany have responded to a DRK call for volunteers, while the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, has also asked for volunteers from its own ranks. Countries around the world are taking increasing precautions and committing resources in the battle against the deadly virus as the number of victims continues to climb.
Scientists raise an alarm about SHFV's compatibility with humans (Timm Schamberger/Getty Images)

SHFV is a highly pathogenic virus commonly found in non-human primates. The first outbreaks were in USSR and a US-based NIH lab in the 1960s. Since then the Ebola-like virus has been detected in several types of primates including patas monkeys, vervet monkeys, and baboons. In a lab study, they found the virus is now able to transmit to a human receptor with ease and spread widely. 

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In macaque monkeys, SHFV causes fever, fluid retention in the body's tissue, anorexia, and hemorrhaging. The disease is almost always fatal within about two weeks. Experts warn the virus could spill over from non-human primates to human cells, potentially causing major health issues and there is no cure. The symptoms in humans are expected to be similar to those of Ebola which results in fever, vomiting, organ failure, and internal bleeding.

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A lab study, shows Simian virus are highly pathogenic virus and are to latch onto human cells (Credit: Cell)
A lab study shows simian viruses are highly pathogenic viruses and are to latch onto human cells (Cell)

As reported by DailyMail, the senior author of the study Dr Sara Sawyer said, "This animal virus has figured out how to gain access to human cells, multiply itself, and escape some of the important immune mechanisms we would expect to protect us from an animal virus." She added, "That's pretty rare. We should be paying attention to it." Author Professor Cody Warren said, "The similarities are profound between this virus and the simian viruses that gave rise to the HIV pandemic." A novel virus that could spread easily could cause a new pandemic. The Covid pandemic was also instigated by a novel virus and was hard to detect in the human immune system.

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Reservoirs of the family of viruses that include SHFV (Credit: Cell)
Reservoirs of the family of viruses that include SHFV  (Cell)

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