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Raccoon Virus Offers Clues to Human Cancer

Rare brain tumors found in raccoons in Northern California and Oregon may be linked to a new virus, according to a new study.

Researchers, led by scientists from the University of California, Davis, said their findings could shed light on how viruses cause cancer in both animals and humans.

"Understanding how infectious agents may contribute to cancer in animals has provided fundamental new knowledge on the cause of cancer in people," Michael Lairmore, dean of the university's School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a university news release.

Autopsies performed on raccoons beginning in March 2010 revealed 10 raccoons had brain tumors. Of these raccoons, nine were from Northern California. The additional raccoon was sent to the university by researchers at Oregon State University.

All of the tumors found in these raccoons had a new virus, known as raccoon polyomavirus. Since the study was completed, two more raccoons with brain tumors and the virus were found in two additional counties.

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