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A Response to last month's internet gleaning on Papova

Author: Liz Johnson

an orphaned article, provenance forgotten.

I'm rushing to the laptop to contact you because of the article on "papova" in the journal. This is the second occasion now that I have read an article, obviously researched and very well intentioned, which is nevertheless completely erroneous! (the other was NHC I think).

Please can I stress that Hamster Polyomavirus has absolutely NOTHING in common with most of its family Papovaviridae (aka papovaviruses) except basic structure - its an effectively an arbitrary classification now, they would have had common ancestors but have diverged to the point where you CANNOT infer anything about HaPV from other papovas.

The authors of the article clearly are not microbiologists/virologists but have "interpreted" scientific articles. There is absolutely no point in looking up Papillomavirus articles, SV40 (a Simian virus only!) or Picornaviruses. This is equivalent to comparing an elephant to a jellyfish.

HaPV has clinical features in common ONLY with other polyomaviruses. Hamster polyoma virus is named so because it EXCLUSIVELY infects hamsters. there is no way on earth it has come via deer, clams, oysters, ducks, birds ticks etc! It may have crossed a species barrier from another close relation such as murine polyoma virus, but this would be inadvertent and at least before the 70s. A species cross is a rare event.

The problem is simply that the authors seem not to be aware of basic background virology - and the vast differences between various groups and families. Can I send you a draft of FACTS we know about HaPV after Xmas. This will simply be transmission, prevention, symptoms etc and a bit of explanation about viral evolution and where HaPV probably came from and what is likely to happen. Please let me know: I would be happy to do this as I keep up to date on the issue anyway and have the resources now to check all the vet datatbases etc.

Please let me, as a practising virologist in a vet teaching hospital, stress that Hamster polyomavirus has nothing to do with picorna viruses, other DNA viruses, papilloma viruses, SV40, and other random papova viruses - ONLY other polyoma viruses. It would be a good idea to chuck the "papova" bit already as this seems to be the route of confusion.

I know I've gone on! please forgive me being such a bore, but I've spent so many years in virology, a field which I really love.....All I can do to explain is by saying it was like reading that we are all descended from peanuts and possibly the odd walnut.

Ps: I know that the author researched his item with great care, and have no wish to sound offensive, but I had to express my misgivings, and would enjoy further exchange and discussion