Hyderabad: For the first time in India, wildlife researchers and virologists have identified a virus, ‘Mason-Pfizer Monkey Virus (M-PMV)’, among highly vulnerable Nilgiri Langurs in captivity at Nandankanan Zoological Park, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
The M-PMV is akin to HIV/AIDS wherein like humans, it has the ability to compromise the immunity of the infected animal and the death is caused by a simple infection. Before anybody could start providing the treatment, the Nilgiri Langurs were dead due to the virus.
In April this year, after the Cyclone Fani made landfall in in Odisha, the Nandankanan Zoological Park started reporting unexplained deaths of its captive animals including Orangutans and Nilgiri Langurs. Initially, the authorities at the zoological park feared infection due to the cyclone as the reason behind the sudden deaths of the simians.
However, the instances of sudden onset of infection among the simians continued, forcing the zoo authorities in Odisha to approach NIV researchers. Blood and other tissue samples of the dead simians were collected and were sent to NIV Pune for complete analysis and to ascertain the etiology i.e. set of causes for the disease.
The results of the study on Nilgiri Langurs and isolation of the new virus were presented by NIV researchers in the international conference on ‘Advancement in Veterinary Sciences for Wildlife Conservation’ being organised by Laboratory for Conservation and Endangered Species –Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (LACONES-CCMB) here on Thursday.
“Along with researchers of Nandankanan Zoological Park, we also identified a rare bacterium known as Chromobacterium violaceum that was causing the infection. Apart from that, we identified and did genome sequence of M-PMV virus,” BS Mathapati, researcher from NIV, Pune said.
According to researchers, the identification of M-PMV virus among Nilgiri Langurs is vital, as the monkey species are endangered and are placed in the ‘Red List’ of International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The Nilgiri Langurs (Semnopithecus johnii) are one of the seven species of non-human primates which are exclusively native to India and are distributed across the Nilgiri Hills of the Western Ghats in the southern parts of the country.
The NIV researchers in their study said that this was the first report of M-PMV virus from India in Nilgiri Langurs. “Regular screening, quarantine measures, bringing awareness among stakeholders and adoption of appropriate bio-safety practices can prevent such major infections in the future and eventually protect the endangered species of Nilgiri Langurs,” the NIV researcher said.