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Primate disease field guide covers critical gap in global health
Date:11/18/2008

Why are so many infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans? Why do we have so little capacity to predict epidemics, or avoid them? Some answers, and possible solutions, can be found in the first trench-to-bench guide to wild primate infectious diseases, published Nov. 17 in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology.

"There is growing awareness that the majority of emerging pathogens in the world are coming from wildlife. And most of that wildlife is in tropical forests in places where we have the least disease surveillance," says Thomas Gillespie, assistant professor of environmental studies at Emory University, and lead author of the article.

In addition to describing integrative approaches to studying primate infectious diseases, the article provides standardized, step-by-step guidelines for properly gathering and storing feces, blood and other specimens from wild primates for laboratory analysis.

"By giving researchers from a range of disciplines standardized guidelines for collecting data, and integrating that data across sites, we can build a baseline for patterns of primate disease. That may give us a chance to see something abnormal before it becomes an epidemic," says Gillespie, one of the world's leading primate disease ecologists.

The article was in response to a growing outcry among scientists for integrated approaches to studying how outbreaks get their start. A meta-analysis published in the journal "Nature" in February showed that more than 60 percent of epidemics between 1940 and 2004 began when a germ jumped from wildlife to humans.

Gillespie's co-authors on the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology article were Charles Nunn, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University; and Fabian Leendertz a virologist at the Robert Koch Institute and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

Risk of Primate, Human Pathogen Exchanges Up

The specialized field
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Contact: Beverly Clark
beverly.clark@emory.edu
404-712-8780
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

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