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Keywords:

  • macaque;
  • rhesus monkey;
  • Macaca mulatta;
  • epizootic;
  • alanine aminotransferase (ALT);
  • hepatitis A virus (HAV);
  • periportal inflammation

Abstract

During a toxicology study in cynomolgus (long-tailed or crab-eating) monkeys (Macaca fascicularis), a randomly distributed incidence of significantly increased hepatic enzyme activity was observed. Premedication hepatic enzyme activity in all monkeys of this study was normal, but increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity was found in 4 of the 24 animals 2 weeks after initiation of the study and in 10 of 24 at 4 weeks. A drug-related effect was considered unlikely initially because the increases were not doserelated, and a 3-year review of 655 cynomolgus monkeys revealed a 15–20% incidence of increased hepatic enzyme activity. Good correlation was subsequently established between increased hepatic enzyme activity, active hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection, and histomorphologic confirmation of hepatitis (chronic periportal inflammation). Follow-up viral serodiagnostic screening of resident macaques revealed an overall incidence of anti-HAV IgG in 80% (155/193) of cynomolgus and in 70% (14/20) of rhesus monkeys. Serial screening demonstrated that several initially negative monkeys became seropositive for anti-HAV IgG, and a few acquired active infection (anti-HAV IgM). Among newly acquired cynomolgus monkeys, 2.5% (2/80) had an acute HAV infection, and 35% (28/80) eventually tested positive for anti-HAV IgG while quarantined in the primate facility. The characterization of an enzootic HAV infection in incoming monkeys posed a significant risk for the primate colony and handlers. Rigorous sanitation, isolation, and quarantine procedures, including personnel training and additional protective clothing for personnel working in the primate colony, reduced tho potential for transmission and arrested the outbreak. Experimenters should be cautious in ascribing toxicity to a test article based solely on increased hepatic enzyme activity associated with chronic periportal inflammation.