A second use for monkey poop

Use #1-- Identifying the exact source of HIV-1 and HIV-2.

Use #2-- Determining the ecological/zoonotic/epidemiological implications of Simian Foamy Virus infection in chimpanzees!

Simian Foamy Virus
(SFV) is another complex retrovirus, like HIV-1, but on a different branch of the retroviral family tree. So it still has the same basic proteins (gag, pol, and env-- Im getting to env), just different bells and whistles.

It also performs its own unique twists on the retroviral life-cycle, like going through the process of reverse transcription as the baby viruses bud off! Yeah not in the new host cell right after infection-- right before the immature virus buds off! Weird!

We also know that foamy retroviruses are really, really old. When you line up SFV phylogenetic trees with primate mitochondrial phylogenetic trees, they overlap, implying that SFV has been co-evolving with primates for at least 30-40 million years!

Because these foamy viruses dont appear to be pathogenic in chimpanzees and because of their odd reverse transcription, foamy viruses are currently a popular candidate for gene therapy vectors in humans. BUT just because they dont cause problems in primates, it doesnt mean foamy viruses wont cause problems in humans (ie, HIV).

Hahns group already had extensive poop experience through their HIV work, and theyre rightly concerned about another zoonotic epidemic from SFV, and they would like to anticipate difficulties in gene therapy before these vectors hit patients. So why not try to characterize SFVs behavior in primates by looking for SFV in poop too? I mean, the extra poop is just sitting in the freezer. Might as well use it for something. hehehehehe! Seriously, after reading this paper, it really feels like they thought 'Um, so, we have some extra poo... wanna see if theres any SFV in it?' lol! Not that theres anything wrong with that-- If youve got some cool samples, suck all the data you can from them!

Its just that this paper is going to be rather anticlimactic (hey, not all science can be sexy-- sometimes is just science hehe!)

The chimpanzee colonies they collected poo from had ~44%-100% prevalence of SFV. Every colony was infected to some degree. This wasnt too surprising, as even zookeepers for primates can test positive for SFV, so we knew it was really easy to catch.

They found SFV antibodies in their poo. IgG is the antibody you probably think of when I say 'antibody', but IgA is actually secreted in your tears, mucus, poo, etc. So if youve been infected with influenza, you will secrete anti-influenza IgA. If the chimpanzees have been infected with SFV, they would have anti-SFV in their poo. Its just the way our immune system works, so SFV antibodies in poo wasnt unexpected either.

What was unexpected was SFV viral RNA in chimpanzee poo. Remember how I said reverse transcription takes place at viral budding? If viruses are being shed in poo, it should be DNA, not RNA! If there is RNA in poo, that must mean that there are productively infected cells being shed in poo! But the primary site of productive infection is lungs and other oral tissues! Who is the infected cell hiding in poo? Hmmm....

... Well, I wish I had some fun punch-line for this paper, but like I said, it kinda feels like they just had some extra poo leftover from their HIV study and wanted to see what else they could fish out.

They found some SFV.


Honestly, I just wanted an excuse to talk about HIVs crazy uncle, Simian Foamy Virus. Like Mystery Rays noted, one rarely gets a 'newsy' reason to write about foamy viruses, so Im grabbing on to this opportunity, however anticlimactic is may be! (thanks to Wilkins for the Mystery Rays reference! Gud blag!)


More like this

Its no secret that Im not a huge fan of the antibody hunter branch of the HIV-1 research world-- they search through thousands and thousands and thousands of B-cells looking for one or two that can perform a neat trick. They are brilliant people working really hard doing things that have limited…
X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-linked ALD) is a demyelination disease in little boys. The kids are usually dead before they hit adolescence. :( The demyelination mechanism is not the same as the demyelination disease you all have heard of, MS. With X-linked ALD, the kids dont have a functional…
Quick recap of ERVs for new readers of ERV (or long-time readers who have forgotten!)-- ERVs are retroviruses that accidentally infected an egg/sperm cell, and became a permanent part of that egg/sperms DNA. That egg/sperm then went on to successfully generate a viable embryo, and because that…
This study is a case study from this study (lol): Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Modified T Cells in Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia I imagined this scene happened in one of their lab meetings: I didnt go in-depth as to how everything was working before, so I thought I would do it now! This paper is a case…

So, it's not just for flinging anymore?

By ShavenYak (not verified) on 09 Jul 2008 #permalink

Much can be learned from Pooh....

"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known."
-Winnie the Pooh

Hey! For those of us not in the viral "know"...what is a foamy virus? What makes it foamy?

I'm kind of picturing rabies right now...?

LOL! When I saw the title I assumed this was to be a post about creationists.

By Torbj�rn Lar… (not verified) on 09 Jul 2008 #permalink

what is a foamy virus? What makes it foamy?

"Foamy viruses derive their name from the highly vacuolating, foamy-appearing cytoplasm of productively infected cells, and the presence of multinucleated syncytia formed by cell fusion." --Maxine Linial, in Fields Virology

katie-- iayork got it! Syncytia!

When a cell is infected with, say, HIV-1, it will start expressing HIV-1s envelope protein on the cell surface. Of course the viruses budding off the cell surface take some of that env with them so they can infected a new host cell. But because the infected cell is expressing env just like a virion, if a NEW potential host cell comes by, the new cell will fuse with the original host cell, just as if the original host cell was one great BIG HIV.

So you get these blobs of multinucleated cells because infected cells bump into new host cells and fuse, over and over.


BUT just because they dont cause problems in primates, it doesnt mean foamy viruses wont cause problems in humans (ie, HIV).

That would be other primates?
But I sure wish someone would come up with mmore uses for dog poop, because our new staff member (Abner) sure produces a lot. I think he's working on his post for characterizing the Bush Administration.

IIRC, some ERVs (the ERV-L family???) are related to foamy viruses, and may even be present in the human genome. I'd have to check though.

oh, come on, this is at least the... *counts on fingers* EIGHTH use for monkey poo!

Also, the phrase "If youve got some cool samples, suck all the data you can from them!" in conjunction with frozen monkey poo is giving me disturbing images.

Hmmm...if its been around for tens of million years,id be really surprised if there wasnt a human one.... i guess i am surprised we dont all have it. Am i missing something?