Persistent zoonotic infection of a human with simian foamy virus in the absence of an intact orf-2 accessory gene

Margaret E. Callahan, William M. Switzer, Aprille L. Matthews, Beverly D. Roberts, Walid Heneine, Thomas M. Folks, Paul A. Sandstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Although foamy viruses (FVs) are endemic among nonhuman primates, FV infection among humans is rare. Recently, simian foamy virus (SFV) infection was reported in 4 of 231 individuals occupationally exposed to primates (1.8%). Secondary transmission to spouses has not been seen, suggesting that while FV is readily zoonotic, humans may represent dead-end hosts. Among different simian species, SFV demonstrates significant sequence diversity within the U3 region of the long terminal repeat (LTR) and 3' accessory open reading frames (ORFs). To examine if persistent human SFV infection and apparent lack of secondary transmission are associated with genetic adaptations in FV regulatory regions, we conducted sequence analysis of the LTR, internal promoter, ORF-1, and ORF-2 on a tissue culture isolate and peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples from a human infected with SFV of African green monkey origin (SFV-3). Compared to the prototype SFV-3 sequenee, the LTR, internal promoter, and FV transactivator (ORF-1) showed sequence conservation, suggesting that FV zoonosis is not dependent on host- specific adaptation to these transcriptionally important regions. However, ORF-2 contains a number of deleterious mutations predicted to result in premature termination of protein synthesis. ORF-2 codes in part for the 60- kDa Bet fusion protein, proposed to be involved in the establishment of persistent cellular SFV infections. These results suggest that persistent human infection by SFV and reduced transmissibility may be influenced by the absence of a functional ORF-2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9619-9624
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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