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Great apes endangered by human viruses
Date:1/25/2008

This release is available in German.

A new study published in the journal Current Biology by researchers of the Robert Koch Institute (Berlin), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) and the Centre Suisse des Recherches Scientifiques (Ivory Coast) confirms the disease threat, finding the first direct evidence of virus transmission from humans to wild apes. The study also showed however that research and tourism projects strongly suppressed the poaching of chimpanzees. This protective effect outweighed the substantial chimpanzee mortality caused by human disease introduction.

Respiratory disease introduction by humans has long been suspected at sites where apes in the wild have been in close contact to humans but this is the first study to diagnose the disease agent and quantify the population impact. "We need to be much more proactive about instituting strict hygiene precautions at all ape tourism and research sites", says Fabian Leendertz, senior author of the paper and a wildlife disease epidemiologist at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. "One possibility for promoting compliance is a certification process similar to the green labelling system now used in the timber industry."

The study used a multidisciplinary approach involving behavioural ecology, veterinary medicine, virology and population biology to track human disease introduction into two chimpanzee communities at Taï National Park in Côte d’Ivoire, where researchers first began to habituate chimpanzees to human presence in 1982. Tissue samples taken from chimpanzees that had died in a series of outbreaks dating back to 1999 tested positive for two human respiratory viruses that are major sources of human infant mortality in the developing world, namely human respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus. Viral strains sampled from the chimpanzees were
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Contact: Sandra Jacob
info@eva.mpg.de
49-341-355-0122
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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