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J Virol. 2014 Nov;88(22):13212-20. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01490-14. Epub 2014 Sep 3.

African great apes are naturally infected with roseoloviruses closely related to human herpesvirus 7.

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Laboratoire des Interactions Virus-Hôtes, Institut Pasteur de la Guyane, Cayenne, French Guiana.
Unité d'Epidémiologie et Physiopathologie des Virus Oncogènes, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
Department of Virology, Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), Rijswijk, The Netherlands.
Centre Pasteur du Cameroun, Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Laboratoire des Interactions Virus-Hôtes, Institut Pasteur de la Guyane, Cayenne, French Guiana


Primates are naturally infected with herpesviruses. During the last 15 years, the search for homologues of human herpesviruses in nonhuman primates allowed the identification of numerous viruses belonging to the different herpesvirus subfamilies and genera. No simian homologue of human herpesvirus 7 (HHV7) has been reported to date. To investigate the putative existence of HHV7-like viruses in African great apes, we applied the consensus-degenerate hybrid oligonucleotide primers (CODEHOP) program-mediated PCR strategy to blood DNA samples from the four common chimpanzee subspecies (Pan troglodytes verus, P. t. ellioti, P. t. troglodytes, and P. t. schweinfurthii), pygmy chimpanzees (Pan paniscus), as well as lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). This study led to the discovery of a novel roseolovirus close to HHV7 in each of these nonhuman primate species and subspecies. Generation of the partial glycoprotein B (1,111-bp) and full-length DNA polymerase (3,036/3,042-bp) gene sequences allowed the deciphering of their evolutionary relationships. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that HHV7 and its African great ape homologues formed well-supported monophyletic lineages whose topological resemblance to the host phylogeny is suggestive of virus-host codivergence. Notably, the evolutionary branching points that separate HHV7 from African great ape herpesvirus 7 are remarkably congruent with the dates of divergence of their hosts. Our study shows that African great apes are hosts of human herpesvirus homologues, including HHV7 homologues, and that the latter, like other DNA viruses that establish persistent infections, have cospeciated with their hosts.


Human herpesviruses are known to possess simian homologues. However, surprisingly, none has been identified to date for human herpesvirus 7 (HHV7). This study is the first to describe simian homologues of HHV7. The extensive search performed on almost all African great ape species and subspecies, i.e., common chimpanzees of the four subspecies, bonobos, and lowland gorillas, has allowed characterization of a specific virus in each. Genetic characterization of the partial glycoprotein B and full-length DNA polymerase gene sequences, followed by their phylogenetic analysis and estimation of divergence times, has shed light on the evolutionary relationships of these viruses. In this respect, we conclusively demonstrate the cospeciation between these new viruses and their hosts and report cases of cross-species transmission between two common chimpanzee subspecies in both directions.

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