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Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease on the rise across endemic habitats. Despite the growing importance of monkeypox virus, our knowledge on its host spectrum and sylvatic maintenance is limited. Here, we describe the recent repeated emergence of monkeypox virus in a wild, human-habituated western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus, hereafter chimpanzee) population from Taï National Park, Ivory Coast. Through daily monitoring, we show that further to causing its typical exanthematous syndrome, monkeypox can present itself as a severe respiratory disease without a diffuse rash. By analysing 949 non-invasively collected samples, we identify the circulation of at least two distinct monkeypox virus lineages and document the shedding of infectious particles in faeces and flies, suggesting that they could mediate indirect transmission. We also show that the carnivorous component of the Taï chimpanzees' diet, mainly consisting of the sympatric monkeys they regularly hunt, did not change nor shift towards rodent consumption (the presumed reservoir) before the outbreaks, suggesting that the sudden emergence of monkeypox virus in this population is probably due to changes in the ecology of the virus itself. Using long-term mortality surveillance data from Taï National Park, we provide evidence of little to no prior viral activity over at least two decades. We conclude that great ape sentinel systems devoted to the longitudinal collection of behavioural and health data can help clarify the epidemiology and clinical presentation of zoonotic pathogens.

Citation

Livia V Patrono, Kamilla Pléh, Liran Samuni, Markus Ulrich, Caroline Röthemeier, Andreas Sachse, Silvia Muschter, Andreas Nitsche, Emmanuel Couacy-Hymann, Christophe Boesch, Roman M Wittig, Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer, Fabian H Leendertz. Monkeypox virus emergence in wild chimpanzees reveals distinct clinical outcomes and viral diversity. Nature microbiology. 2020 Jul;5(7):955-965

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PMID: 32341480

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