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This article is part of the supplement: 15th International Conference on Human Retroviruses: HTLV and Related Viruses

Open Access Open Badges Meeting abstract

High level of inter-species transmission of simian foamy virus from non-human primates to humans in Gabon, central Africa

Augustin Mouinga-Ondémé1, Mélanie Caron1, Antoine Gessain2 and Mirdad Kazanji3*

Author Affiliations

1 Unité de Rétrovirologie, CIRMF, Franceville, Gabon

2 EPVO unit Institut Pasteur, Paris, France

3 Unité de Rétrovirologie, CIRMF, Franceville, Gabon and Institut Pasteur de Bangui, Central Africain Republic

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Retrovirology 2011, 8(Suppl 1):A229  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-8-S1-A229

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:6 June 2011

© 2011 Mouinga-Ondémé et al; licensee 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.


Each of the pathogenic human retroviruses (HIV-1/2 and HTLV-1) has a non-human primate (NHP) counterpart, and the presence of these retroviruses in humans results from interspecies transmission. The passage of another simian retrovirus, simian foamy virus (SFV), from NHPs to humans has been reported. Here, we evaluated the natural history of SFV in a free-ranging colony of mandrills (CIRMF primate center) and in mandrills living in natura in Gabon (central Africa). We also determined the SFV prevalence in a series of 497 NHP living in different parts of Gabon. Lastly, we investigated the possible transmission of SFVs to humans.


Seropositivity for SFV was Western blot positive in 83% (70/ 84) of captive and 60% (9/15) of wild-caught mandrills. Integrase gene analysis demonstrated the existence of two different, geographically restricted, MndFV strains. Among the NHP, 10.5% (31/286) of the plasma/sera were SFV seropositive. Integrase gene was characterized in 38 samples with novel SFVs in several species of Cercopithecus. Among the 78 persons, mostly hunters bitten by NHP, 19 were SFV seropositive with 15 being PCR confirmed. Mandrills and gorilla SFV were found in the infected humans. Furthermore, SFV was detected in two personnel of the primate center.


We demonstrate the presence of 2 different geographically restricted strains of mandrill FV. We show the existence of several new FV strains, species-related, in different Cercopithecus. Lastly, our results indicate a high interspecies transmission of SFVs to hunters through mainly gorilla bites, leading to a chronic infection in humans.