, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 275-290

Skeletal evidence of probable treponemal infection in free-ranging African apes

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Abstract

The prevalence and patterning of inflammatory lesions of the skeleton were investigated in samples of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) curated at the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, UK. One hundred and two chimpanzees (42 adults and 60 subadults) and 126 gorillas (50 adults and 76 subadults) comprise the samples. Twenty per cent of chimpanzees and 14% of gorillas were affected with a disseminated inflammatory skeletal condition caused by infection. The lesions appear to have originated as localized patches of new bone deposition on the surface of long bones and to have progressed to infection of the bone cortex and marrow. Although female prevalence of involvement exceeds that of males in both species, the differences are not statistically significant. The age distribution of affected animals indicates that the disease began in some animals as early as 2 yr of age. Given the skeletal and demographic prevalence and patterning of the lesions as well as the ecology and behavior of these animals, the most likely diagnosis of the condition is a yaws-like treponemal infection.