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Everything about simian virus 40 (SV40) sounds like something from a Planet of the Apes film. It is a virus that is naturally occurring in monkeys, but humans can become infected as well from exposure to the virus. However, before you start worrying that apes will take over the state of Tennessee or the entire planet, you should probably learn more about the virus and its possible link to cancers like mesothelioma.

In the 1950s, scientists were intent on finding a vaccine for polio. Once a live, attenuated strain of the poliovirus was isolated, pharmaceutical companies chose to grow the virus on minced kidney cells extracted from rhesus monkeys. This would result in a large amount of the virus from which vaccines could be created. Unfortunately, these monkeys carried simian viruses, which ultimately contaminated the poliovirus and went on to infect humans.

While exposure to asbestos remains the main cause of mesothelioma, some studies have linked SV40 to mesothelioma not caused by asbestos exposure. As you might expect, scientists and researchers are hesitant to say that SV40 absolutely contributes to cancer. Rather, many of these researchers say that once SV40 enters human mesothelial cells, it causes change that may make human cells “more susceptible to other cancer-causing substances.”

It is also unknown whether the simian virus interacts with asbestos to increase the risk of developing illnesses related to cancer. In the meantime, research into how mesothelioma might occur other than through exposure to asbestos will likely continue.

If you or a loved one suffers from asbestos-related illnesses, a Tennessee attorney can discuss possible ways to recover compensation.

Source: Mesothelioma Research News, “SV40 Virus Infection Might Contribute to Malignant Mesothelioma Development,” Magdalena Kegel, accessed Feb. 08, 2018