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Molecular evidence of Leishmania spp. in spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) from The Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Veracruz, Mexico


The black-handed spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) is a platyrrhine primate distributed in southern Mexico, Central America, and part of South America. Two subspecies inhabit Mexico: Ateles geoffroyi vellerosus and Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis, both threatened with extinction. Serological evidence of exposure of spider monkeys to various groups of parasites such as Trypanosoma cruzi in México and Leishmania spp. in Brazil has been reported. The genus Leishmania encompasses about 23 species of flagellate protozoa that are transmitted by the bite of females of Phlebotominae sand flies. These parasites cause a zoonotic disease called leishmaniasis, which generates skin, mucocutaneous and/or visceral manifestations. The aim of the present study was to demonstrate the presence of Leishmania sp. in spider monkeys from the Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Veracruz, Mexico. Blood samples from 10 free- ranging specimens of A. geoffroyi yucatanensis and 11 specimens in captivity of A. geoffroyi vellerosus were collected and used. The samples were subjected to a conventional Polymerase Chain Reaction test for the identification of a 116 bp fragment of a region from the kinetoplast minicircle of the parasite. Our analyzes showed that 71.4% of the sampled animals had fragment sizes compatible with Leishmania spp. The implications involve the survival of the specimens and the possibility that these primates act as sentinels of the disease. Furthermore, it is the first report suggesting the presence of Leishmania spp. in A. geoffroyi vellerosus and A. geoffroyi yucatanensis in Veracruz, Mexico.

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The data and procedures in this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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To the "Hilda Ávila de O'Farril" Wildlife Conservation Management site with registration number: SEMARNAT-UMA-IN-CR-0137-VER / 11 for providing the facilities for sample collection. To the MVZ Javier Hermida Lagunes for his support in the capture of primates. To the staff of the Parasitology Laboratory of the “Torreón del Molino” rancho of Universidad Veracruzana and undergraduate students who assisted the present study. To the Instituto de Patobiología Veterinaria (IPVET). Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA)—Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina. The authors thanks three anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions significantly improved this manuscript.


Doctoral scholarship # 449790 from CONACyT (CDPB, Doctorado en Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad Veracruzana).

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Authors and Affiliations



Field work and laboratory analysis: CDPB, DRS. Project administration: DRS, VTPS, MGH, JMDC, AER. Experiment design, reagents/materials/analysis tools: DRS, VTPS. Data curation and statistical analysis: ACR. Sample processing, laboratory and molecular analysis: CDPB, MA, MFC, LS, AER. Writing, review and editing: CDPB, MGH, JMDC, AER, DRS.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dora Romero-Salas.

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Statement on the welfare of animals. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance and approved by the Bioethics and Animal Welfare Commission of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of Universidad Veracruzana and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (permit number: SGPA/DGVS/0381/17); and met the requirements of Mexican law (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010).

Consent to participate

Consent was obtained from "Hilda Ávila de O'Farril" Wildlife Conservation Management owner and Universidad Veracruzana. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Consent was obtained from "Hilda Ávila de O'Farril" Wildlife Conservation Management owner and Universidad Veracruzana. All authors gave their consent for publication.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Pérez-Brígido, C.D., Romero-Salas, D., Pardío-Sedas, V.T. et al. Molecular evidence of Leishmania spp. in spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) from The Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Veracruz, Mexico. Vet Res Commun 46, 295–302 (2022).

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  • Leishmaniasis
  • Vector-borne disease
  • Primate
  • Conservation medicine