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Infect Genet Evol. 2008 Jan;8(1):1-14. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

Prevalence and genetic diversity of simian immunodeficiency virus infection in wild-living red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus badius badius) from the Taï forest, Côte d'Ivoire SIVwrc in wild-living western red colobus monkeys.

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UMR 145, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, and University of Montpellier 1, Montpellier, France.


Numerous African primates are infected with simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs). It is now well established that the clade of SIVs infecting west-central African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) represent the progenitors of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), whereas HIV-2 results from different cross-species transmissions of SIVsmm from sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys atys). We present here the first molecular epidemiological survey of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVwrc) in wild-living western red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus badius badius) which are frequently hunted by the human population and represent a favourite prey of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). We collected faecal samples (n=88) and we assessed individual discrimination by microsatellite analyses and visual observation. We tested the inferred 53 adult individuals belonging to two neighbouring habituated groups for presence of SIVwrc infection by viral RNA (vRNA) detection. We amplified viral polymerase (pol) (650 bp) and/or envelope (env) (570 bp) sequences in 14 individuals, resulting in a minimal prevalence of 26% among the individuals sampled, possibly reaching 50% when considering the relatively low sensitivity of viral RNA detection in faecal samples. With a few exceptions, phylogenetic analysis of pol and env sequences revealed a low degree of intragroup genetic diversity and a general viral clustering related to the social group of origin. However, we found a higher intergroup diversity. Behavioural and demographic data collected previously from these communities indicate that red colobus monkeys live in promiscuous multi-male societies, where females leave their natal group at the sub-adult stage of their lives and where extra-group copulations or male immigration have been rarely observed. The phylogenetic data we obtained seem to reflect these behavioural characteristics. Overall, our results indicate that wild-living red colobus represent a substantial reservoir of SIVwrc. Moreover, because of their frequent association with other monkey species, the predation pressure exerted by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and by poachers around and inside the park, simian to simian and simian to human SIVwrc cross-species transmission cannot be excluded.

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