Human Metapneumovirus Threatens Mountain Gorillas In Central Africa

30 March 2011 General News

Human Metapneumovirus Threatens Mountain Gorillas In Central Africa


NAIROBI, Kenya -- A group of researchers said Wednesday they have found that
a virus causing deadly respiratory diseases in humans can be passed on to
mountain gorillas in Central Africa.

Researchers who spent time in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park said they
found traces of Human Metapneumovirus during post-mortem examinations of two
gorillas that died in 2009. The two, a mother and a newborn, were in a group
of 12 infected gorillas. Researchers could not establish the source of the
virus that killed the two gorillas. Human Metapneumovirus can cause severe
colds and pneumonia.

There are only 786 mountain gorillas in the wild that live in Rwanda, Uganda
and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The study published Tuesday in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal of
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that while gorilla
tourism provides revenue for conservation activities, it poses risks of

The study says close genetic similarities between the two - gorillas share
approximately 98 percent of their DNA with humans - has led to concerns that
the apes may be susceptible to many of the infectious diseases that affect

The study says that while mountain gorillas are "immunologically naive and
susceptible to infection with human pathogens," most of the focus has been
on how diseases affecting apes can be transmitted to humans.

The report says gorillas' existence is threatened by encroachment on their
habitat, poaching and infectious diseases. Diseases account for 20 percent
of all sudden deaths of the apes.

"The potential for disease transmission between humans and mountain gorillas
is of particular concern because over the past 100 years, mountain gorillas
have come into increasing contact with humans," researchers said in a
statement. "In fact, the national parks where the gorillas are protected in
Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are surrounded by the
densest human populations in continental Africa."

The researchers added: "Also, gorilla tourism, while helping the gorillas
survive by funding the national parks that shelter them, brings thousands of
people from local communities and around the world into contact with
mountain gorillas annually."

The study was conducted by researchers from the nonprofit Mountain Gorilla
Veterinary Project, the Wildlife Health Center at the University of
California, Davis, the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia
University and the Rwanda Development Board.


We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. More info.

By using you agree to our use of cookies.