Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fatal respiratory infections in endangered gorillas are linked to human contact

31.03.2011
New study indicates that ecotourism may be contributing to the decline of mountain gorillas in African preserves

In a study published online this week in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, an international team of researchers report that a virus that causes respiratory disease in humans infected and contributed to the deaths of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. This finding raises questions about the safety of ecotourism for endangered species.

The study, which appears in the April issue of the journal, was conducted by scientists at Columbia University's Center for Infection and Immunity (CII), Roche 454 Life Sciences, the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, a US-based non-profit organization.

Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) live primarily in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Virunga National Park, which houses about a third of the world's remaining gorilla population. Despite international efforts to protect this endangered species, there are currently fewer than 800 living mountain gorillas in the world.

Now, this study, which focuses on an outbreak of respiratory disease in the Hirwa group of mountain gorillas in 2009, suggests that these animals may also be susceptible to human pathogens. Infectious diseases, especially respiratory ones, are the second leading cause of sudden deaths among mountain gorillas, after poaching.

Growing ecotourism has increased interactions between humans and wild animals living in these parks, intensifying the chance for disease transmission. While ecotourism has heightened awareness of the need to safeguard endangered species, world travel also has the potential to quickly spread disease.

Local authorities have recently tried to reduce animals' exposure to potentially harmful pathogens by limiting the number of tourists visiting wildlife parks and requiring visitors to wear protective masks. Despite these efforts, the frequency and severity of respiratory disease outbreaks among gorillas have been on the rise. In fact, of the 12 gorillas in the Hirwa group, 11 showed classic symptoms of respiratory infection, including coughing, runny nose and lethargy. Two of these gorillas, an adult female and her male infant, died.

Using state-of-the-art molecular methods, CII researchers found evidence of respiratory tract infection with human metapneumovirus (HMPV) and bacterial pneumonia in the female's lungs, throat and nose.

Further tests confirmed that HMPV found in the lungs of sick gorillas was closely related to strains circulating in South Africa, over 1,000 miles away, suggesting that tourists may have carried the virus into the parks.

'Pure' HMPV infections typically result only in mild damage to the respiratory system, suggesting that an interaction between HMPV and bacterial pneumonia may have been the cause of death. This observation is consistent with other studies that have shown that respiratory viruses like HMPV and H1N1, can make hosts more susceptible to opportunistic infections, like pneumonia.

CII investigator and first author, Gustavo Palacios, stated, "we usually think of viruses as jumping from wildlife to humans, but what we often don't realize is that this is a two-way highway."

"This study illustrates the importance of global commitment to the One Health Initiative," commented CII Director, Dr. W. Ian Lipkin. The One Health Initiative is a movement whose aim is to promote collaboration among environmental, agricultural, veterinary and human health sectors. Says Dr. Lipkin, "Conservation efforts must be expanded to protect wild animals from human pathogens to which they likely lack immunity."

Daniela Hernandez | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.columbia.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>