Patterns of Infection with Cryptosporidium sp. and Giardia sp. in Three Species of Free-Ranging Primates in the Peruvian Amazon

Abstract

Recent evidence of pathogen transmission to humans from wild primates and a greater recognition of the risk of human pathogen transmission to free-ranging primates have raised awareness of the potential impact of zoonotic pathogen transmission on primate conservation and nonhuman primate and human health. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are zoonotic protozoan parasites transmitted via fecal–oral contamination or water that can cause gastritis or enteritis in human and nonhuman primates. From June 2002 to September 2003, we collected fecal samples noninvasively from two species of tamarins (Saguinus mystax and S. nigrifrons) and one species of titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus) at the Estación Biológica Quebrada Blanco in the Peruvian Amazon to determine the distribution and prevalence of these potential pathogens. We screened 140 fecal samples representing known individuals of each species for Cryptosporidium and Giardia using the Merifluor immunoflourescence assay to determine the prevalence and intensity of infection with these organisms. With the exception of two samples we collected during the same week from a juvenile male Saguinus mystax, all samples were negative for Cryptosporidium. None of the fecal samples were positive for Giardia. The low prevalence of infection we observed limited our ability to examine the effects of demographic and environmental variables on patterns of infection; however, the exceptionally low prevalence of Cryptosporidium suggests that it is not a current health threat to these primate populations. Although the origin of infection with Cryptosporidium in the juvenile male Saguinus mystax cannot be determined, its presence alerts us to the potential for cross-species transmission and highlights the need for more detailed research to improve our understanding of the distribution and diversity of potentially pathogenic protozoa in Neotropical primate populations.

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Acknowledgments

All work complied with legal requirements of the countries (Peru, Germany, USA) where the respective parts of the study were conducted and with the institutional ethical guidelines. Fieldwork in Peru and exportation of the material was conducted under permission from the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA) in Lima. We are grateful to Ney Shahuano Tello for field assistance, Johanna Salzer and Eunice Lee for technical assistance, and Joanna Setchell and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Funding for this project was provided by Emory University, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the German Research Foundation (DFG).

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Correspondence to Thomas R. Gillespie.

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West, K.A., Heymann, E.W., Mueller, B. et al. Patterns of Infection with Cryptosporidium sp. and Giardia sp. in Three Species of Free-Ranging Primates in the Peruvian Amazon. Int J Primatol 34, 939–945 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-013-9710-z

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Keywords

  • Callicebus cupreus
  • Parasitism
  • Saguinus mystax
  • Saguinus nigrifrons
  • Zoonoses