KUALA LUMPUR: Seven new viruses have been discovered in about 800 animals sampled in Malaysian forests last year.
EcoHealth Alliance Malaysia project coordinator Tom Hughes said the viruses were found in many animals tested in the peninsula.
However, he declined to name the animal species that carried these viruses until further tests were carried out to determine whether they could be dangerous to others.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. We started our work with Malaysian authorities since 2005 with labs located at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan), Cheras and the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh.”
“The lab in Sabah started operations in Penampang in October last year,” he said.
He said the research findings would be made public once they are ready.
The alliance in Malaysia would be working closely with its global counterparts to see whether these viruses existed in other animals elsewhere, he said.
On Friday, Hughes gave a talk about research on zoonoses (infectious diseases that are transmitted between species including from animals to human).
US ambassador to Malaysia, Joseph Yun hosted the talk at his residence. The talk was aimed at raising awareness on Sabah’s conservation efforts.
Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said researchers recently found that the altering landscape in Sabah had also changed wildlife behaviour such as those of the orang utan.
“Orang utans are arboreal animals but now they are spending more time on the ground. If they spend more time on the ground, they are at more risks of being hunted by human beings and clouded leopards.
“Orang utans are also susceptible to soil-borne diseases and their immune system are not ready to deal with organisms that are found in the ground,” he said.