HIV-Like Virus Found in Illegally Imported Meat

Researchers testing bushmeat smuggled into the U.S. have found strains of a virus in the same family as HIV, according to preliminary findings to be released Wednesday.

For years, authorities have tried to crack down on the smuggling of meat from certain animals, such as bats, monkeys and rodents, which some people consider a food delicacy.

In 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit which runs many of New York City's zoos, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined forces to test illegally imported meat entering the New York City area from West Africa for dangerous diseases such as monkey pox, the virus that causes SARS and retroviruses such as HIV.

Scientists found two strains of simian foamy virus, commonly found in nonhuman primates, from three species—two mangabeys and a chimpanzee—in bushmeat.

The virus can infect humans but hasn't been conclusively linked to known diseases. However, the related simian immunodeficiency virus has been found in bushmeat tested outside of the country and is considered responsible for the first cases of HIV by scientists.

Bushmeat, often cured or smoked, has entered the U.S. through the mail and in shipping containers.

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