China’s first human infection with monkey B virus, Beijing veterinarian dies of poisoning after dissecting dead monkey

The first human case of monkey B virus infection in China was found in a 53-year-old male veterinarian in Beijing, who died on May 27, the CDC Weekly Report (English) reported on Friday (16). The report concludes that the discovery of the first case means that the herpes B virus in monkeys may pose a potential zoonotic threat to workers in some professions.

The report said the patient, who worked at an institution specializing in breeding and experimental research on non-human primates, dissected two dead monkeys on March 4 and 6 of this year and suffered from nausea and vomiting, followed by fever and neurological symptoms, months after the disease was diagnosed, and eventually died after several hospital visits. The researchers found the first human case of monkey B virus infection in China through next-generation sequencing and real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Monkey B virus is an endemic alpha herpesvirus in macaques, which was first isolated in 1932 and is often transmitted through direct contact and exchange of body secretions. The virus is not evident in its natural macaque hosts, but about 60 cases of pathogenic zoonotic monkey B virus infection have occurred sporadically, with a lethality rate of seventy to eighty percent. Although the risk of secondary transmission is low, there has been one case of human-to-human transmission.

Prior to these cases, no clinically significant cases of monkey B virus infection had been identified in China, and no fatal cases of infection with the virus had been reported; previous zoonotic monkey B virus infections were mainly among primate veterinarians, animal care workers, or laboratory researchers in North America. Therefore, the report concludes that the finding of this case implies that monkey B herpesvirus may pose a potential zoonotic threat to the above-mentioned occupational workers, and points to the need to eliminate monkey B virus from the development of specific pathogen-free rhesus monkey populations and to strengthen surveillance of experimental macaques and occupational workers in China.