from the United States and Africa have discovered that diseases can pass from
humans to gorillas, and can even cause death to these wild mountain gorillas.
Palacios, study leader and virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity
at Columbia University in New York, along with
Mike Cranfield, executive director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project
and a UC Davis wildlife veterinarian, Linda
Lowenstein, a veterinary pathologist with the UC Davis Mountain Gorilla One
Health Program, and a team of researchers from the Rwanda Development Board
have found that wild mountain gorillas are capable of catching infectious diseases from
that gorillas have had close contact to humans -- such as gorillas living near
densely populated areas in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda
-- does not help these endangered species. Also, tourists who visit these
gorillas in their shelters expose them to even more potential diseases.
study has found that gorilla's living in the national parks in Africa are being
infected by a
respiratory disease that is common in humans (gorillas and
humans share 98 percent of the same DNA). The outbreaks of these human-caused
diseases have become much more frequent in these specific gorilla populations
in recent years. This is problematic because the respiratory issues have proved
to be fatal to some of the gorillas. In fact, two gorillas died in 2009 due to
type of infection we see most frequently is respiratory, which can range from
mild colds to severe pneumonia," said Lowenstine.
gorillas that died from the human virus were apart of the Hirwa group, which
resides in Rwanda. In 2009, this group had 12 gorillas ranging from males to
females to juveniles to infants. Eleven were infected by the respiratory
disease, which resulted in symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, coughing
and lethargy. Two of the infected gorillas died.
When the tissues
of the two gorillas were examined, both had the biochemical signature of an RNA
virus called human metapneumovirus (HMPV). An adult female and an infant were
the ones killed by the virus.
there are fewer than 800 living mountain gorillas, each individual is
critically important to the survival of their species," said Cranfield.
"But mountain gorillas are surrounded by people, and this discovery makes
it clear that living in protected national parks is not a barrier to human
This study was published in Emerging