Pathogen Transmission from Humans to Great Apes is a Growing Threat to Primate Conservation

23 January 2018 Science News

EcoHealth | Emily Dunay et al. | January 2018


All six great ape species are listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN and experiencing decreasing population trends. One of the threats to these non-human primates is the transmission of pathogens from humans. We conducted a literature review on occurrences of pathogen transmission from humans to great apes to highlight this often underappreciated issue. In total, we found 33 individual occurrences of probable or confirmed pathogen transmission from humans to great apes: 23 involved both pathogen and disease transmission, 7 pathogen transmission only, 2 positive antibody titers to zoonotic pathogens, and 1 pathogen transmission with probable disease. Great ape populations were categorized into captive, semi-free-living, and free-living conditions. The majority of occurrences involved chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) (n = 23) or mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) (n = 8). These findings have implications for conservation efforts and management of endangered great ape populations. Future efforts should focus on monitoring and addressing zoonotic pathogen and disease transmission between humans, great ape species, and other taxa to ensure the health of humans, wild and domestic animals, and the ecosystems we share.

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