Transspecies Transmission of Gammaretroviruses and the Origin of the Gibbon Ape Leukaemia Virus (GaLV) and the Koala Retrovirus (KoRV)
Robert Koch Institute, 13353 Berlin, Germany; ; Tel.: +49-30-18754-2800
Transspecies transmission of retroviruses is a frequent event, and the human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) is a well-known example. The gibbon ape leukaemia virus (GaLV) and koala retrovirus (KoRV), two gammaretroviruses, are also the result of a transspecies transmission, however from a still unknown host. Related retroviruses have been found in Southeast Asian mice although the sequence similarity was limited. Viruses with a higher sequence homology were isolated from Melomys burtoni, the Australian and Indonesian grassland melomys. However, only the habitats of the koalas and the grassland melomys in Australia are overlapping, indicating that the melomys virus may not be the precursor of the GaLV. Viruses closely related to GaLV/KoRV were also detected in bats. Therefore, given the fact that the habitats of the gibbons in Thailand and the koalas in Australia are far away, and that bats are able to fly over long distances, the hypothesis that retroviruses of bats are the origin of GaLV and KoRV deserves consideration. Analysis of previous transspecies transmissions of retroviruses may help to evaluate the potential of transmission of related retroviruses in the future, e.g., that of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) during xenotransplantation using pig cells, tissues or organs.