Characterization of Risk Factors for Inter- and Intraspecies Transmission of Respiratory Illness at Lola Ya, Democratic Republic of Congo

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2023

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Abstract

Zoonotic disease poses one of the greatest threats to both human and animal health in our world today. Recent pandemics such as Ebola, SARS-CoV2, and highly pathogenic Avian Influenza have shown the devastating consequences of infectious disease on both human and animal populations. Few studies have characterized the risk of interspecies pathogen transmission with one of our closest living relatives, Pan paniscus. This endangered species of great apes inhabits only rainforests of the Congo River Basin. Due to human encroachment, bushmeat trade, illegal pet trade, and deforestation, only 15,000-20,000 wild bonobos remain. The Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary (LYB) serves as the world’s only haven for orphaned and injured bonobos and presents a valuable opportunity to study the epidemiology of respiratory pathogens in a habituated population. This study aimed to characterize the risk factors for transmission of respiratory illness between bonobos and humans at LYB. Between 2014-2017 a cohort of 77 bonobos and 44 human staff were observed for signs of clinical illness and had their upper respiratory tract routinely sampled. We used a multiplex nucleic acid amplification assay to detect the presence of 18 viral and 3 bacterial respiratory pathogens. Of 282 total bonobo testing events, 93 (33%) returned positive results, primarily RSV-A (n = 41, 44.1%) and Rhinovirus/Enterovirus (n = 37, 39.8%). Although the point of entry into LYB could not be determined, RSV-A initially appeared in the infant and juvenile enclosures and spread serially through the older bonobo enclosures. Rhinovirus/Enterovirus appeared in diffuse clusters throughout the sanctuary. Although new bonobos are subject to a prolonged quarantine, current policy allows for relocation of bonobos between enclosures and frequent and sustained contact with human staff. Active surveillance for respiratory and other pathogens and additional infection control measures may benefit bonobo and human health.

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Hanberry, Daniel Austin (2023). Characterization of Risk Factors for Inter- and Intraspecies Transmission of Respiratory Illness at Lola Ya, Democratic Republic of Congo. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27828.

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