Science & Technology

How the disease spreads not only in humans but also in mountain gorillas

A group of gorillas, monitored by the Fosse Foundation, meet for an afternoon break in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Credit: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

New studies show that sick gorillas convey the disease to others nearby.

Coughs and colds spread rapidly within wild mountain gorilla groups, but appear unlikely to spread between adjacent groups. Science report show.

Diseases, especially respiratory infections, are one of the greatest threats to the protection of apes. Humans and apes are so closely related that our ape cousins ​​can catch many of the same illnesses as we do. However, relatively mild respiratory infections in humans can have a significant impact on apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees, and can be fatal in the case of common colds and flu.

Scientists at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund investigate 15 respiratory outbreaks in the last 17 years to understand how the disease is transmitted through a population of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Did. These findings will help shape future conservation strategies.

“The better we understand how the disease has spread in the past, the better we can respond to future outbreaks,” said Dr. Robin Morrison, lead author of the study.

The authors of the study found that close contact and strong social relationships within the gorilla group made it possible to spread respiratory illness rapidly among group members. In addition, infection patterns were unpredictable on the group’s social networks. In one outbreak, 45 out of 46 group members took only 3 days to start coughing.

These results are Previous research The more diffuse social organization of the chimpanzee society has delayed the overall transmission of chimpanzees, and researchers have been able to predict the spread of the disease based on the chimpanzee’s social network.

There was some good news about the population of this endangered gorilla. Researchers have found that the chances of the infection spreading between adjacent groups are limited.

Yvonne Musimi Imana, co-author of the project, said: “Gorilla groups interact fairly rarely, so they tend to keep distance and rarely approach within that important 1-2 meter distance.”

This alienity to adjacent groups may actually help protect a larger population by limiting the wider spread of these infections.

But where did these outbreaks come from if the gorilla groups were not infected with each other? Other studies of wild apes have shown that respiratory outbreaks are mostly caused by human-derived pathogens. In Uganda, two neighboring chimpanzee communities began to show signs of respiratory infection at the same time, Gene analysis It turns out that these infections were caused by two completely different human pathogens. These findings surprised scientists who predicted that the infection would spread between the two chimpanzee communities. Instead, analysis showed that both infections were transmitted independently of humans.

“Our best guess is that these mountain gorilla infections come from humans,” Morrison said. “It really emphasizes the importance of ongoing efforts to minimize the exposure of wild great apes to human disease during research, tourism, conservation and other activities. In the midst of the epidemic, vaccination, wearing a mask and maintaining the right distance are all more important than ever. “

Identifying strategies for limiting the transmission of the disease is a conservation priority. Although different diseases can have very different transmission routes, this study helps to understand how future outbreaks with similar infectious dynamics will spread to gorilla populations.

“The results of this study show that respiratory disease is transmitted rapidly within groups of gorillas, and transmission between groups is much less common, so strategies to prevent initial transmission to groups may be most effective. That’s what we suggest, “said Dr. Tara Stoinsky, President and Chief Scientific Officer. Of the Fosse Foundation. “for COVID-19 (New Coronavirus Infection) And other human respiratory pathogens, which means prevent the initial introduction of the disease from humans to gorillas. “

“Studies were completed long before the advent of COVID-19, but current pandemics have so far minimized the transmission pathways of diseases in wild apes and apes that pose similar risks to humans. It emphasizes the fact that it is more important than that, “said Stoinsky.

Reference: “Rapid Transmission of Respiratory Infections Between Mountain Gorilla Groups, Not Within Mountain Gorilla Groups” October 7, 2021 Science report..
DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-98969-8

How the disease spreads not only in humans but also in mountain gorillas How the disease spreads not only in humans but also in mountain gorillas

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