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

of primate disease ecology began around 1999, when the global HIV/AIDS pandemic was traced definitively to SIV-1 from chimpanzees. While HIV/AIDS and Ebola are the two most dramatic examples of human diseases linked to primates, many other viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens found in apes and monkeys are readily transmissible to humans. Recent studies have also shown that potential pathogens are passing from people and domestic animals to primates, bolstering suspicions that primate epidemics of polio, measles and respiratory diseases came from humans.

"The close genetic relationship between wild primates and people, coupled with growing human activity in forests, is increasing the opportunities for the exchange of pathogens," Gillespie says.

One of Gillespie's current research projects, funded by the National Geographic Society, is tracking the ecology of pathogens among people and wild primates at logging sites in the Republic of Congo. The project is gathering data to support sustainable logging methods, as well as to protect the health of people and animals.

Integrated Research Key to Interventions

Gillespie is among the founding scientists of the Great Ape Health Monitoring Unit, a cooperative effort of the United Nations, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. The unit strives to integrate research from anthropologists, health professionals, biologists, ecologists and other scientists who are studying wild primates in remote locales with the work of lab-based scientists and computer modelers.

"We want to reduce the risks of a pathogen jumping from animals to people and vice-versa," Gillespie says. "And if a pathogen does make the jump, we want to have enough data to develop effective interventions."


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

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