Monday, 17 December 2012

Emerging Virus in Raccoons May Provide Cancer Clues


Dec. 12, 2012 — Rare brain tumors emerging among raccoons in Northern California and Oregon may be linked to a previously unidentified virus discovered by a team of researchers, led by scientists from the University of California, Davis. Their findings, published December 12 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, could lead to a better understanding of how viruses can cause cancer in animals and humans.

Necropsies conducted since March 2010 by scientists at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Davis-led California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory found brain tumors in 10 raccoons, nine of which were from Northern California, the article reports. The 10th was sent to UC Davis by researchers at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore.
The common factor, found in all of the tumors, was a newly described virus, dubbed raccoon polyomavirus. Researchers suspect this virus contributes to tumor formation.

Polyomaviruses, which are prevalent but rarely cause cancer, do not typically cross from one species to another, so the outbreak is not expected to spread to people or other animals.

Two more raccoons with the tumor and the virus have been found in Yolo and Marin counties since September 2012, when the article was submitted to the journal for publication.

"Raccoons hardly ever get tumors," said study author Patricia Pesavento, a pathologist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "That's why we take notice when we get three tumors, much less 12."


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