Chimpanzee known as Colavita died of leprosy in a Gambian research station

WASHINGTON — Researchers studying chimpanzee behavior in Gambia spotted a previously unrecorded episode of leprosy in a wild chimpanzee named Colavita, who lived at a research station more than 10 years ago. Colavita showed…

Chimpanzee known as Colavita died of leprosy in a Gambian research station

WASHINGTON — Researchers studying chimpanzee behavior in Gambia spotted a previously unrecorded episode of leprosy in a wild chimpanzee named Colavita, who lived at a research station more than 10 years ago.

Colavita showed early signs of the disease and was cleared of the symptoms before she was killed by poachers for meat. The researchers, in their paper published in the September issue of Current Biology, said that while it is possible Colavita got leprosy from a stray chimpanzee from her back row, her behavior at the research station suggests that she may have contracted the disease in the wild.

“In both field experiments and a small subset of experiments in the laboratory, Colavita experienced chronic increases and decreases in dose of K. lystedt linctus, an antibiotic, and a laboratory assay for leprosy antibodies,” the researchers write. “These changes are characteristic of leprosy, which has been an outbreak in colobus monkeys in Gambia since the mid-1980s.”

Leprosy has been seen in zoos and on certain species of wild lizards in recent years, and apparently because of the virus that causes leprosy, strains of which were first identified in 2016. A 2014 study showed that lupus, which also involves the immune system, could also cause leprosy.

Although leprosy is more of a global issue in impoverished parts of Asia and Africa, there have been isolated incidences in many parts of Africa. Ebola also have caused health problems in parts of Africa, but while leprosy can cause brain damage and physical deformities, the disease is not contagious and is not a threat to anyone other than infected individuals.

The World Health Organization says that new leprosy cases in humans dropped by 94 percent over the past 60 years as a result of better sanitation and medical care.

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