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Alveolar echinococcosis in Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla): albendazole was not able to stop progression of the disease


Wenker, Christian; Hoby, Stefan; Wyss, Fabia; Mengiardi, Horst; Vögtli, Renate; Posthaus, Horst; Deplazes, Peter; Gottstein, Bruno (2019). Alveolar echinococcosis in Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla): albendazole was not able to stop progression of the disease. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 50(1):243-253.

Abstract

Echinococcus multilocularis is the etiologic agent of alveolar echinococcosis (AE), a severe and potentially fatal larval cestode infection primarily affecting the liver. AE is known to occur in dead-end intermediate hosts, including humans and nonhuman primates. Between 1999 and 2016, AE was diagnosed in seven western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), all from a Swiss zoo. Six gorillas died of the disease. One individual is still alive, receives continuous albendazole medication, and shows no clinical signs. Most infected animals remained asymptomatic for years. Only one young gorilla showed early signs of acute discomfort and abdominal pain. In the final stage of the disease, affected animals died suddenly, or showed a short course of nonspecific but severe clinical signs, including lethargy, recumbency, abdominal enlargement, and anorexia. Postmortem examination confirmed hepatic AE complicated by peritonitis in most cases. Echinococcus multilocularis infection may remain undetected because of a very long incubation period. Hematological and biochemical parameters rarely showed abnormalities in this phase. Thus, inclusion of abdominal hepatic ultrasound examination and serology is recommended for early AE detection in routine examinations of gorillas in endemic areas or where food is potentially contaminated with E. multilocularis eggs. Ultrasound or computed tomography was useful to monitor progression and to estimate the volumetric extension of the hepatic lesions. Current medication with albendazole, which proved to be effective for human patients, was not able to stop progression of hepatic lesions in gorillas. Therefore, its therapeutic value remains questionable in gorillas. However, long-term oral albendazole treatment proved to be safe, and therapeutic plasma levels published for humans were achieved. Preventive measures such as thermo-treatment of food or vaccination of gorillas and other nonhuman primates should be considered in areas where E. multilocularis is present.

Abstract

Echinococcus multilocularis is the etiologic agent of alveolar echinococcosis (AE), a severe and potentially fatal larval cestode infection primarily affecting the liver. AE is known to occur in dead-end intermediate hosts, including humans and nonhuman primates. Between 1999 and 2016, AE was diagnosed in seven western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), all from a Swiss zoo. Six gorillas died of the disease. One individual is still alive, receives continuous albendazole medication, and shows no clinical signs. Most infected animals remained asymptomatic for years. Only one young gorilla showed early signs of acute discomfort and abdominal pain. In the final stage of the disease, affected animals died suddenly, or showed a short course of nonspecific but severe clinical signs, including lethargy, recumbency, abdominal enlargement, and anorexia. Postmortem examination confirmed hepatic AE complicated by peritonitis in most cases. Echinococcus multilocularis infection may remain undetected because of a very long incubation period. Hematological and biochemical parameters rarely showed abnormalities in this phase. Thus, inclusion of abdominal hepatic ultrasound examination and serology is recommended for early AE detection in routine examinations of gorillas in endemic areas or where food is potentially contaminated with E. multilocularis eggs. Ultrasound or computed tomography was useful to monitor progression and to estimate the volumetric extension of the hepatic lesions. Current medication with albendazole, which proved to be effective for human patients, was not able to stop progression of hepatic lesions in gorillas. Therefore, its therapeutic value remains questionable in gorillas. However, long-term oral albendazole treatment proved to be safe, and therapeutic plasma levels published for humans were achieved. Preventive measures such as thermo-treatment of food or vaccination of gorillas and other nonhuman primates should be considered in areas where E. multilocularis is present.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Parasitology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Parasitology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
600 Technology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, General Veterinary, General Medicine, Albendazole, alveolar echinococcosis, Echinococcus multilocularis, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, western lowland gorilla
Language:English
Date:5 April 2019
Deposited On:28 Apr 2019 14:04
Last Modified:28 Apr 2019 14:05
Publisher:American Association of Zoo Veterinarians
ISSN:1042-7260
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1638/2018-0064

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