Chinese biomedical researcher who became first human case of Monkey B virus has died

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File image: A family of rhesus macaque huddles together during a rainfall in Mumbai on 21 June, 2021. China recently reported the first case of human death due to monkey virus that transmitted from monkeys to humans   (AFP via Getty Images)
File image: A family of rhesus macaque huddles together during a rainfall in Mumbai on 21 June, 2021. China recently reported the first case of human death due to monkey virus that transmitted from monkeys to humans (AFP via Getty Images)

A 53-year-old biomedical researcher, who became the first human case of the Monkey B virus in China, has died.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), the Monkey B virus (BV) is normally transmitted through direct contact and exchange of bodily fluids, just like herpes simplex virus (HSV) in humans. It was first identified in 1932.

The China CDC said that the researcher who died was a “veterinary surgeon (male) who worked in an institute specialised in non-human primate breeding and experimental research in Beijing.”

“He dissected two dead monkeys on 4 and 6 March 2021 and experienced nausea and vomiting followed by fever with neurological symptoms one month later. As a result, the patient visited doctors in several hospitals but eventually died on 27 May,” it said in its weekly statement released last week.

It explained that the fatality rate of BV infections is 70-80 percent.

“Although the risk for secondary transmission appears to be minimal, one case of human-to-human transmission of herpes B virus has previously been documented,” it said.

The China CDC also said that the monkey virus infections have mainly involved “primate veterinarians, animal care personnel, or laboratory researchers in North America” and there were no fatal or even clinically evident BV infections in China before 2021.

Apart from the researcher, who died, samples including “cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blister fluid, blood, airway aspirates, nasal swab, throat swab, and plasma” were collected from two of his close contacts as well.

“This implied that BV in monkeys might pose a potential zoonotic threat to the occupational workers. It is necessary to eliminate BV during the development of specific pathogen-free rhesus colonies and to strengthen surveillance in laboratory macaques and occupational workers in China,” said China CDC.

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