Wildlife, Exotic Pets, and Emerging Zoonoses

Bruno B. Chomel; Albino Belotto; François-Xavier Meslin


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2007;13(1) 

In This Article

Bushmeat, Wet Markets, Exotic Foods, and Zoonotic Diseases

Another risk factor related to the emergence of zoonotic diseases from wildlife has been the considerable increase in consumption of bushmeat in many parts of the world, especially Central Africa and the Amazon Basin, where 1-3.4 million tons and 67-164 million kilograms, respectively, are consumed each year.[7] The simian foamy virus has been identified as a zoonotic retrovirus that infects people who have direct contact with fresh nonhuman primate bushmeat; this finding indicates that such zoonoses are more frequent, widespread, and contemporary than previously appreciated. Similarly, new retroviruses, human T-lymphotropic virus types 3 and 4 were found in persons who hunt, butcher, or keep monkeys or apes as pets in southern Cameroon.[25] The combination of urban demand for bushmeat (a multibillion-dollar business) and greater access to primate habitats provided by logging roads has increased the amount of hunting in Africa, which has increased the frequency of human exposure to primate retroviruses and other disease-causing agents. Similarly, several outbreaks of Ebola virus in western Africa have been associated with consumption of bushmeat, mainly chimpanzees that were found dead.[26]

Traditional and local food markets in many parts of the world can be associated with emergence of new zoonotic diseases. Live animal markets, also known as wet markets, have always been the principal mode of commercialization of poultry and many other animal species. Such markets, quite uncommon in the United States and, until recently, in California, are emerging as a new mode of commercialization within specific ethnic groups for whom this type of trade assures freshness of the product but raises major public health concerns. The avian influenza epidemic, which began in Southeast Asia in 2003 and recently spread to other parts of the world, is directly related to infected birds sold live in traditional markets. Live bird markets facilitate the spread of this avian H5N1 virus by wild birds.[27] Similarly, the newly discovered severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus was linked to trade of live, wild carnivores, especially civets, in the People's Republic of China.[2] However, recent data suggest that civets may be only amplifiers of a natural cycle involving trade and consumption of bats.[28] Trichinellosis has long been associated with consumption of undercooked meat from wild animals, such as bears, and now consumption of uncooked meat from deer and wild boar has recently been associated with emergence of severe cases of hepatitis E in hunters in Japan.[29] Industrialized nations' new taste for exotic food has also been linked with various zoonotic pathogens or parasites, such as protozoa (Toxoplasma), trematodes (Fasciola sp., Paragonimus spp.), cestodes (Taenia spp., Diphyllobothrium sp.), and nematodes (Trichinella spp., Anisakis sp., Parastrongylus spp.).


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