Herpes and HIV Viruses Enter US Through Smuggled African Bush Meat

Illegal shipments of African bushmeat have been analyzed and found to contain Herpes and HIV Precursor Simian Foamy Virus a new study revealed. The study examined confiscated bushmeat at five major US airports.

The meat was analyzed using a new technique called DNA Barcoding which is a quick analysis tool to tell you what species a virus or bacteria falls into. In this particular study the test found zoonotic retrovirus, simian foamy viruses, and several nonhuman primate herpes viruses.

The illegal trade in exotic meat is big business in the Unites states. Legally, more than 1.5 billion live animals were brought into the US from 200-2006, 90% of them for pets. This only gives a slight picture of how many may be smuggled in illegally.

The fear is that most of the world’s worst viruses, at some point, jumped form animals to humans. The most recent case was SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which jumped from Civets (a type of wild cat) to Chinese butchers in 2003.

W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health told Environment News Service,

“Exotic wildlife pets and bushmeat are Trojan horses that threaten humankind at sites where they are collected in the developing world as well as the U.S. Our study underscores the importance of surveillance at ports, but we must also encourage efforts to reduce demand for products that drive the wildlife trade.”

The study was the first of its kind, but in the future much more research is going to be needed. The danger posed to the nation is too great to worry about potential costs.

Dr. Kristine Smith, lead author of the study said,

“Although the findings to date are from a small pilot study, they remind us of the potential public health risk posed by illegal importation of wildlife products – a risk we hope to better characterize through expanded surveillance at ports of entry around the country.”

Do you think the US should spend more money to keep exotic viruses out of the country?