Forgotten disease found in wild chimpanzees

Employees of the Cantanez National Park in Guinea-Bissau have found wild chimpanzees with severe injuries on their faces. It turned out that they were sick with leprosy. It was previously thought that this disease only affects humans.

Lepra is a disease that claimed many lives in the Middle Ages. With the advent of antibiotics, it was forgotten, but now the pathogen has been found in wild chimpanzees. Previously, the disease was not observed in animals living in the wild.

Leprosy or leprosy since the XI century AD has become one of the most terrible infectious diseases in humans. It is a type of granulomatosis – chronic inflammation, as a result of which nodules form in the patient’s tissues that disrupt the functioning of organs. Leprosy affects mainly the skin and the peripheral nervous system. It is caused by a certain type of mycobacteria.

Today leprosy is included in the group of neglected diseases – those that are practically not found in civilized society. Now it turned out that leprosy can affect not only people, but also their closest relatives – wild chimpanzees. This fact was discovered by workers of the Cantanese National Park in Guinea-Bissau and a veterinarian who visited the reserve in Côte d’Ivoire.

Scientists have observed signs of leprosy on the faces of several wild chimpanzees in two different national parks. A detailed study shows that the strains of the infectious agent in both parks are different. Also, scientists have shown that the disease could hardly be transmitted to animals from humans. This means that there is an unknown source of leprosy in the wild. While researchers do not know where the chimpanzee “caught” the infection, but further research may shed light on this mystery.

For many years, researchers believed that only humans suffered from leprosy. But over the past two decades, scientists have also found leprosy in armadillos in America and in red squirrels in Britain. Both species share the same bacterial genotype, called 3I, which has been linked to human infections in Medieval Europe. In both cases, the pathogen appears to have been transmitted from humans to animals. Scientists have also reported isolated cases of leprosy in captive animals, including chimpanzees.

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