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Leprosy in wild chimpanzees


Hockings, Kimberley J; Mubemba, Benjamin; Avanzi, Charlotte; Pleh, Kamilla; et al; Morozova, Irina; Schuenemann, Verena J (2021). Leprosy in wild chimpanzees. Nature, 598(7882):652-656.

Abstract

Humans are considered as the main host for Mycobacterium leprae1, the aetiological agent of leprosy, but spillover has occurred to other mammals that are now maintenance hosts, such as nine-banded armadillos and red squirrels2,3. Although naturally acquired leprosy has also been described in captive nonhuman primates4-7, the exact origins of infection remain unclear. Here we describe leprosy-like lesions in two wild populations of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in Cantanhez National Park, Guinea-Bissau and Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. Longitudinal monitoring of both populations revealed the progression of disease symptoms compatible with advanced leprosy. Screening of faecal and necropsy samples confirmed the presence of M. leprae as the causative agent at each site and phylogenomic comparisons with other strains from humans and other animals show that the chimpanzee strains belong to different and rare genotypes (4N/O and 2F). These findings suggest that M. leprae may be circulating in more wild animals than suspected, either as a result of exposure to humans or other unknown environmental sources.

Abstract

Humans are considered as the main host for Mycobacterium leprae1, the aetiological agent of leprosy, but spillover has occurred to other mammals that are now maintenance hosts, such as nine-banded armadillos and red squirrels2,3. Although naturally acquired leprosy has also been described in captive nonhuman primates4-7, the exact origins of infection remain unclear. Here we describe leprosy-like lesions in two wild populations of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in Cantanhez National Park, Guinea-Bissau and Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. Longitudinal monitoring of both populations revealed the progression of disease symptoms compatible with advanced leprosy. Screening of faecal and necropsy samples confirmed the presence of M. leprae as the causative agent at each site and phylogenomic comparisons with other strains from humans and other animals show that the chimpanzee strains belong to different and rare genotypes (4N/O and 2F). These findings suggest that M. leprae may be circulating in more wild animals than suspected, either as a result of exposure to humans or other unknown environmental sources.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:13 October 2021
Deposited On:14 Mar 2022 10:02
Last Modified:25 Jun 2024 01:45
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:0028-0836
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03968-4
PubMed ID:34646009
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)