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!
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
29.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
29.06.2017 | Life Sciences
29.06.2017 | Seminars Workshops