The roles of host genetics versus exposure and contact frequency in driving cross-species transmission remain the subject of debate. Here, we used a multitaxon lemur collection at the Saint Louis Zoo in the United States as a model to gain insight into viral transmission in a setting of high interspecies contact. Lemurs are a diverse and understudied group of primates that are highly endangered. The speciation of lemurs, which are endemic to the island of Madagascar, occurred in geographic isolation apart from that of continental African primates. Although evidence of endogenized viruses in lemur genomes exists, no exogenous viruses of lemurs have been described to date. Here we identified two novel picornaviruses in fecal specimens of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata). We found that the viruses were transmitted in a species-specific manner (lesavirus 1 was detected only in ring-tailed lemurs, while lesavirus 2 was detected only in black-andwhite ruffed lemurs). Longitudinal sampling over a 1-year interval demonstrated ongoing infection in the collection. This was supported by evidence of viral clearance in some animals and new infections in previously uninfected animals, including a set of newly born triplets that acquired the infection. While the two virus strains were found to be cocirculating in a mixed-species exhibit of ring-tailed lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs, and black lemurs, there was no evidence of cross-species transmission. This suggests that despite high-intensity contact, host species barriers can prevent cross-species transmissions of these viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4002-4010
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015


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