Their study will appear in the April 2007 issue of Biological Conservation and is available now on the journal’s Web site.
Other studies have found bacterial exchanges between humans and non-human primates – particularly in areas where the animals are known to frequent garbage piles near human settlements. But this is the first study to document the exchange of E. coli between humans and chimps in a protected wildlife area. It is also the first to find antibiotic-resistant strains in chimpanzees in Africa.
“Antibiotic resistance has traditionally been associated with two factors: indiscriminate and over-prescription of antibiotics by physicians in the developed world and the inclusion of antibiotics in animal feed in the developed world,” said Tony L. Goldberg, a professor of veterinary pathobiology and the principal investigator of the study. The new findings, Goldberg said, show that over-the-counter sales of antibiotics for human consumption can also have an impact on wildlife.
The research team, which included researchers from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and McGill University in Montreal, examined two of 10 known communities of chimpanzees living in Kibale National Park, Uganda. One of the two chimp groups has been the focus of two decades of research by international teams of scientists. The other is regularly visited by employees of a local tourism venture.
Goldberg’s team compared strains of E. coli in the chimps to those of the Ugandans employed in research and tourism in the park.
The team also analyzed samples from people living in a village 5 kilometers from the research site and 25 kilometers from the tourism station. People in the village had no known contact with the chimps.
The team collected 250 E. coli isolates from 25 humans and 23 chimpanzees. Of these, 89 unique genotypes (strains) of E. coli were found.
The E. coli strains from the chimps were more like those of the humans working in the park than like humans living in the village.
“This expands our notion of the situations in which people and chimps can exchange microbes,” Goldberg said. “Habitat overlap, even without direct contact between people and primates, is sufficient for the exchange to occur.”
The further finding that humans had transferred some antibiotic resistant strains to chimps “was the smoking gun,” Goldberg said. More than 81 percent of the humans and 4.4 percent of the chimps studied were found to harbor at least one E. coli isolate that was clinically resistant to an antibiotic. Antibiotics are used frequently in human populations in this region of Uganda, Goldberg said, but antibiotics have never been used in local wildlife, so the antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chimps clearly originated in humans.
Goldberg said it was not clear whether the exchange of bacteria was the result of direct or indirect (environmental) association between the chimps and humans working in the park. Both make use of local streams and other environmental features.
Regardless of the route of transmission, it places both at risk, Goldberg said.
“We’re as concerned about potential effects on human health as on animal health,” he said.
He noted that the exchange of microbes between non-human primates and humans is not new. Two deadly viruses, HIV and Ebola, are believed to be linked to chimpanzees and other non-human primates. Human diseases also pass to monkeys and apes, with equally dire consequences: Pneumonia, respiratory disease, scabies and a polio-like virus have caused epidemic mortality in chimpanzees in some African locales.
This study was funded by the Morris Animal Foundation.
Diana Yates | EurekAlert!
Nanotubes built from protein crystals: Breakthrough in biomolecular engineering
15.11.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
Insect Antibiotic Provides New Way to Eliminate Bacteria
15.11.2018 | Universität Zürich
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences
15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy