, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 792–803 | Cite as

The Use of Neopterin as a Noninvasive Marker in Monitoring Diseases in Wild Chimpanzees

  • Therese Löhrich
  • Verena Behringer
  • Roman M. Wittig
  • Tobias Deschner
  • Fabian H. LeendertzEmail author
Original Contribution


Pathogen analysis in wild great apes is both time- and resource-consuming. Therefore, we examined the potential use of urinary neopterin, a sensitive marker of cell-mediated immune system activation, as a disease marker and unspecific screening tool to facilitate informed pathogen analysis in great ape health monitoring. To test this, urinary neopterin was correlated to other disease markers such as sickness behaviors, fever, and urine parameters. Seasonal variation in urinary neopterin levels was investigated as well. The study encompassed noninvasively collected longitudinal data of young wild chimpanzees from the Taï National Park, Côte d´Ivoire. Relationships between disease markers were examined using a linear mixed model and a case study approach. Seasonal variation in urinary neopterin was tested using a linear mixed model. While the linear mixed model found no obvious relationship between urinary neopterin levels and other disease markers, the case study approach revealed a pattern resembling those found in humans. Urinary neopterin levels indicated seasonal immune system activation peaking in times of low ambient temperatures. We suggest the use of urinary neopterin as an unspecific screening tool in great ape health monitoring to identify relevant samples, individuals, and time periods for selective pathogen analysis and zoonotic risk assessment.


Neopterin Health monitoring Chimpanzee Seasonal variation Disease marker Non-invasive 



We thank the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Forests, the Ministry of Research, the Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves, and the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques in Côte d´Ivoire for research permission and logistical support. We thank the staff of the Taï Chimpanzee Project, especially the field assistant Oulai Landry for help in the field. We thank Roger Mundry for statistical support, and Ines Hirschberg and Anna Kraft for technical support. This research was funded by the Max Planck Society, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the framework of the research group “Sociality and Health in Primates” (DFG FOR 2136).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Alliance 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Therese Löhrich
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Verena Behringer
    • 2
  • Roman M. Wittig
    • 2
    • 4
  • Tobias Deschner
    • 2
  • Fabian H. Leendertz
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic MicroorganismsRobert Koch InstituteBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of PrimatologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Microbiology and Epizootics, Free UniversityBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Taï Chimpanzee ProjectCentre Suisse de Recherches ScientifiquesAbidjan 01Côte d’Ivoire

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