Leprosy Found in Wild Chimpanzees for the First Time

Woodstock Chimpanzee With Leprosy

A chimpanzee named Woodstock with leprosy in Ivory Coast. Credit: Tai Chimpanzee Project

Researchers have confirmed cases of the disease among two unconnected West African populations of chimpanzees, in Guinea-Bissau and the Ivory Coast.

Analysis published in the journal Nature shows the strains of leprosy are different, and both are uncommon among humans.

The origins of the infections are unclear, but the research team – led by the University of Exeter and the Robert Koch Institute – say the findings show leprosy is probably circulating in more wild animals than was previously suspected, either as a result of exposure to humans or other unknown environmental sources.

Chimpanzee With Leprosy

A chimpanzee named Brinkos with leprosy in Guinea-Bissau. Credit: Cantanhez Chimpanzee Project, Elena Bersacola, Marina Ramon

Humans are considered the main host for Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, which cause leprosy, but “spill-over” to other mammals such as nine-banded armadillos and red squirrels is known to occur.

“This is the first confirmation of leprosy in nonhuman animals in Africa,” said lead author Dr. Kimberley Hockings, of Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“It’s amazing that it also happens to be in our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, especially considering how well studied chimpanzees are in the wild.

“We first noticed possible symptoms of leprosy in a population of chimpanzees in Guinea-Bissau.

“The symptoms appeared to be strikingly similar to those suffered by humans with advanced leprosy, including lesions and ‘claw’ hand.

“We contacted Professor Fabian Leendertz from the Robert Koch Institute to confirm these cases genetically.”

Following these findings, Professor Leendertz and Dr. Roman Wittig from the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology identified further cases of leprosy at their study site, Tai National Park, Ivory Coast.

An autopsy of an older female, as well as fecal samples of an adult male that started showing symptoms, also confirmed leprosy.

Chimpanzee With Leprosy Ivory Coast

A chimpanzee named Woodstock with leprosy in Ivory Coast. Credit: Tai Chimpanzee Project

Although the study is the first to report leprosy in wild chimpanzees, there have been cases in captive chimps.

“The strains identified in each chimpanzee population are different, and both are rare in humans and other animal reservoirs worldwide,” said Dr. Charlotte Avanzi, from Colorado State University.

“This study unlocks a new step toward the understanding of the disease transmission in endemic countries and more investigations will eventually shed light on the dynamic of transmission between human, animal and environmental sources.”

Dr. Hockings added: “In Guinea-Bissau it is possible that chimpanzees somehow acquired leprosy from humans in this shared landscape, although people do not kill or eat chimpanzees.

“It is clear that leprosy is now being transmitted between separate chimpanzee communities.”

Professor Leendertz added: “In the Ivory Coast, chimpanzees are more distant from human settlements and it seems more likely that the chimpanzees acquired the infection from another animal species, or from an environmental source such as ticks or bacteria living in water.”

Leprosy in humans is easily treated with medication, but the impact on chimpanzees is hard to predict.

“Western chimpanzees are critically endangered, so even the loss of a few individuals could be significant,” said Dr. Hockings.

“Long-term health monitoring and research is needed to establish the scale and possible effects of leprosy among wild western chimpanzees,” said Dr. Wittig.

The international research team included authors from West Africa, Europe and the USA.

Reference: “Leprosy in wild chimpanzees” by Kimberley J. Hockings, Benjamin Mubemba, Charlotte Avanzi, Kamilla Pleh, Ariane Düx, Elena Bersacola, Joana Bessa, Marina Ramon, Sonja Metzger, Livia V. Patrono, Jenny E. Jaffe, Andrej Benjak, Camille Bonneaud, Philippe Busso, Emmanuel Couacy-Hymann, Moussa Gado, Sebastien Gagneux, Roch C. Johnson, Mamoudou Kodio, Joshua Lynton-Jenkins, Irina Morozova, Kerstin Mätz-Rensing, Aissa Regalla, Abílio R. Said, Verena J. Schuenemann, Samba O. Sow, John S. Spencer, Markus Ulrich, Hyacinthe Zoubi, Stewart T. Cole, Roman M. Wittig, Sebastien Calvignac-Spencer and Fabian H. Leendertz, 13 October 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03968-4

35 Comments on "Leprosy Found in Wild Chimpanzees for the First Time"

  1. I hope that you are aware that fear-mongering comes in all sorts of ways. Many suffer from skin lesions which can be mistaken for leprosy. I have many personal experiences with those who are battling to be accepted by society, coming away from self-destructive behavior induced by ostracization because of appearance. Such photos should have a caution attached as being distressing and shaded until clicked on. There is enough hatred going round and plenty of methods leading to early death and destruction without added undue stress.

    • What the F?? What are you ON about?? This is about CHIMPANZEES, not HUMANS. Are you so desperate to be a victim that you will manufacture a cause sot hat you can then be faux offended and outraged? Give it a rest please. I realize most humans think they are the most important thing on the planet…but not EVERYTHING is about YOU. FFS.

  2. 🙄 The article is about Chimpanzees. The author cites that the leprosy Chimpanzees have is not seen in humans. I find no fear mongering in this article, nor stereotypes!

  3. Ochen Jefferson Mark | October 15, 2021 at 11:00 am | Reply

    Take the affected ones to quarantine and treat them

  4. Please help them. So very awful. Human in origin I would assume.

  5. Somebody should mercy kill those chimps. ASAP.

  6. Pamela Mukasa, This article was not about humans. If you actually read the article, you’d know that they said they tested these animals when autopsied/necropsied. Take it down a notch.

  7. Low IQ and nappy hair | October 22, 2021 at 1:57 am | Reply

    Joggers will rape anything.

  8. That’s an unintended mutation from man-made COVID19. This happens when the forces of evil don’t take the time to thoroughly test their man-made virus skipping animal testing. Of course you’re free to believe the leprosy just magically appeared on its own, for the first time in primate history, this whole time primates have been around without ever getting leprosy, pure coincidence.

  9. Average white guy | October 22, 2021 at 8:21 am | Reply

    Well of course humans are responsible, but not just any human, successful white males for sure.

  10. Pamela your commentary is completely off topic and uninformed. While I do agree that MSM without a doubt is nothing short of a propaganda machine that does nothing but generate fear and slanted globalist misinformation. However your suggestion that this article is doing that same thing is entirely wrong.

  11. Pam…you need 2 chill!!

  12. If humans are the reason for this maybe the humans that did it needs the same thing

  13. Jeez
    Don’t be ret*rded Pam

  14. Not in a narrative or ideology a isolated viewpoint. If I offend anyone my apologies. I want to many expectations and safaris in the past and unfortunately many individuals spoke about eating meat which is called bushmeat. I am a vegetarian and I was never interested in such topics period but I like to say hello to the many friends that were there especially a lady friend from Japan and this is my number in case She WANTS TO get back in contact with ME
    848-466-2821 I had some of my documents in a storage facility and unfortunately they made a mistake and threw my personal items out. Yes they gave me a reimbursement of $1,000 but I can never replace the information . Getting back to the topic It’s Not Unusual to eat all types of bushmeat snakes or wherever It’s Not Unusual just might isolated Viewpoint no one ever has to agree with me.

  15. Your an idiot jaba

  16. Are you serious?! This is Not about You or your or your pimples. This is about Chimps in the wild with Leprosy..
    This should be a WakeUp( not woke) Lesson for All of you sh*t starters, pot stirrers, and all of you critical about any uncomfortable thing going on in the world…. SHUT YOUR MOUTH… KEEP YOUR THOUGHTS, IDEAS, AND MOSTLY YOUR PLANS TO CHANGE HISTORY BECAUSE IT BOTHERS
    Thanks. ✌️

  17. Question: Is anyone going to try and help the Chimpanzees? Since there are few left in the wild. It is treatable in us so it shouldn’t be too difficult to treat them

  18. If you think you could be triggered by content in an article on leprosy in wild chimpanzees, don’t click on the article. But don’t accuse them of fear-mongering when what they’re doing is called reporting.

  19. That top comment… 🤦🏻‍♂️ Stop with your over sensitive bullsh*t. People have their own problems to worry about, and certainly don’t give a flying, you know what, about some snowflakes feelings.
    You should be sterilized.

  20. That’s not leprosy

  21. Steve Von Lieu | October 22, 2021 at 2:33 pm | Reply

    I worked in Angola,Liberia,Nigeria,Congo Basin as an anthropologist in 1975-1982
    I was always fearful of disease carrying insects and bacteria. I always got my shots and boosters. I did get Malaria and Yaws but survived

  22. I’m sure ya Europeans are definitely the blame for this outbreak!

  23. Alrighty Then... | October 22, 2021 at 3:05 pm | Reply

    What a bunch of nutcases who 1.) Did not read the article thoroughly or didn’t understand it, and/or 2.) Don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

  24. Jaba…How’re things Q-ville? 🙄🙄

  25. Jaba, How’re thing in Q-Ville? 🙄

  26. Leviticus 13:30

    “Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard.”

  27. Numbers 12:10

    “And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.”

  28. Is leprosy curable if you catch it in the early stages? It is sad to see an animal suffer with this dreaded disease. 🙁

  29. “The strains identified in each chimpanzee population are different, and both are rare in humans”

    That is until the weaponize it at the Wuhan lab

  30. Luciano medicii | October 22, 2021 at 7:07 pm | Reply

    Lol . Y’all can’t be butt hurt on here. Be humble and kind y’all

  31. My goodness Pam! What planet are you from? Or,what article did you read? Did you actually read it? Smh

  32. I find it rather interesting reading through the other comments. They’re from one end of the spectrum to the other. Jokes, empathy, chastising…. and even facts.

    Granted it’s chimpanzees.
    If they’ve never had it before and all of a sudden do after his many millenia?
    Has Fauci been to the Ivory coast recently?
    Valid question considering recent revelations

  33. Nice human shaming! leave it to you scientists to be experts at the above mentioned shaming. I’m sure one of your Brothers or sister scientists unleashed that Leprosy on them purposely to be able to study the effects that it has on them

  34. Pamela Mukusa~No words for such ignorance! Happy people are speaking up with the appropriate comments.

    Jaba Juce~You may very well be on to something. Just look at the current stories circulating about horrific animal testing. So nothing would surprise me.

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