Amid the coronavirus pandemic, China reported its first death by another viral infection called the Monkey B virus. As per reports, a 53-year-old male veterinarian from Beijing had been infected, after he dissected two dead monkeys in early March. Eventually he passed away in May, when India was battling the second wave of coronavirus.
B virus (Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1, herpesviridae), an alphaherpesvirus endemic in macaque monkeys, has the unique distinction of being the only one of nearly 35 identified non-human primate herpesviruses that is highly pathogenic in humans. B virus has been positively linked with more than two dozen human deaths since the first report describing it in 1933, five of those in the last 12 years, following exposures involving macaques in during acute B virus infection.
Untreated B virus infections in humans result in an extremely high mortality rate (∼80%) and, consequently, present unique and potentially lethal challenges for individuals handling macaque monkeys or macaque cells and tissues. Infection in humans is associated with breach of primary skin or mucosal defenses and subsequent contamination of the site with virus from a macaque or cells or tissues harvested from this animal.
As history goes by, Monkey B virus, also called the B virus (BV), was first discovered in 1932. It is a rare form of infection, which is the only identified old-world-monkey herpesvirus that causes severe infections in humans. Commonly called herpes B, herpesvirus simiae, and herpesvirus B, monkey B virus is transmitted by macaques, chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1932, the virus has infected 50 people, of which 21 have died.
B virus is an infection that humans rarely contract, but when they do, nearly 80% of untreated cases result in fatality. Epidemiological analysis indicates B virus is usually acquired via zoonotic transmission from either a macaque or infected cells or tissues from the animal.
Humans exposed to herpes B virus demonstrate clinically variable signs of infection. Most often, illness after exposure to viable virus is apparent within days to weeks, but in some cases there appears to be a delay in development of acute disease.
Once symptoms appear, the clinical progression is associated with relatively consistent symptoms, including flu-like illness, lymphadenitis, fever, headache, vomiting, myalgia, cramping, meningeal irritation, stiff neck, limb paresthesias, and urinary retention with an ascending paralysis culminating in inability of the patient to maintain respiration, requiring ventillatory support. Cranial nerve signs, e.g., nystagmus and diplopia are also common to most published cases
As early as the 1930s, attempts were made to identify an effective vaccine for protection of individuals who could be exposed to this virus while working with macaques or their cells or tissues. Limited vaccine trials were performed in human volunteers and although short-term antibody was induce, it was observed to wane quickly and the vaccine was not pursued further at that time. Recently, a recombinant vaccine was tested and found to induce antibodies in macaques, but the duration of antibodies and protection remain to be studied.
Currently, there are no vaccines available against the Monkey B virus. Experts have suggested fluid therapy as the only treatment for the virus.