Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Herpes may in fact not be Strictly Species-Specific

A new viral research study challenges the dogma that herpes viruses are considered to be strictly host-specific. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Germany have discovered that a specific type of herpes, gammaherpesvirus, switch amongst hosts far more frequently than previously known.  The two main groups in the study, bats and primates, appear to be responsible for the transfer of these viruses to other mammals in many cases.  The primary example in this study was observed in a species of common vampire bat that is known to feed solely on animal blood, of this preference is given to domestic pigs and cattle.  Herpes viruses are found throughout the animal kingdom, yet none have been observed to cross species barriers; this is true for domestic cattle as well, however, researchers tested the theory that the bats could be infected with a bovine herpes virus.  This spurred the researchers to collectively analyze a wide range of documented and data sets and instances of herpes virus sequencing from multiple hosts for comparative analysis.  The researchers observed an interesting trend, many herpes viruses thought to be host-specific actually share conclusive traits with herpes viruses in multiple species.  Of these species the researchers concluded that a majority of host-change for the virus occurred within bats, due to the wide geographic activity and behaviors, and potentially primates.  The researchers concluded this trend by hypothesizing that the viruses were most likely interchanged between species more often, yet the virus would adapt and modify to fit the host, thus presenting what was once believed to be host-specificity.

-Ethan Wentworth

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