What is it about?

A biopsy of a bonobo suffering from ulcerations in the oral cavity was submitted for diagnostics of viral infection to the German Primate Center. Screening of literature revealed that a papillomavirus, PpPV1, can infect bonobos and cause focal epithelial hyperplasia (FEH), a disease also observed in certain ethnic groups, including Inuit, upon infection with human papillomavirus 13 (HPV13). Moreover, it was found that the animal was part of a bonobo colony housed at Antwerp zoological garden that was reported for suffer from an outbreak of PpPV1 and FEH in the 1980s. Immunohistochemistry and PCR analyses confirmed that the lesion observed in 2018 were indeed FEH and contained PpPV1 DNA. Thus, disease manifestation and active infection can occur in bonobos more than 30 years after the initial PpPV1 infection. Moreover, sequencing showed that the genome present in 2018 differed at 23 positions from the genome present in the 1980s. The genome of papillomaviruses is believed to be extremely stable, i.e. to acquire very few mutations over time. Therefore, we speculate that the animal either suffered from infections by at least two different variants of PpPV1 or that intrahost sequence evolution was much higher than to be expected.

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Why is it important?

Our findings suggest the FEH can present decades after infection and raised the possibility that intrahost sequence evolution upon PpPV1 infection might be higher than expected from findings made for other papillomaviruses.


It would be highly interesting to test several consecutive samples to make firm statements on potential intrahost sequence evolution. Unfortunately, such samples were not available for the animal studied here.

Professor Stefan Pöhlmann
German Primate Center

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Disease Manifestation and Viral Sequences in a Bonobo More Than 30 Years after Papillomavirus Infection, Pathogens, January 2019, MDPI AG,
DOI: 10.3390/pathogens8010013.
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