S.Scientists may have solved the mystery of why chimpanzees died in a sanctuary in Sierra Leone. In a study published today (February 3) in Communication with natureThe researchers describe a new species of bacteria in the genus Sarcina this is linked to a fatal disease of endangered western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus).
The disease, which causes neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms, killed 56 chimpanzees in the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone between 2005 and 2018. “It wasn’t subtle – the chimpanzees would stagger and stumble, throw up and have diarrhea,” said study author Tony Goldberg, an epidemiologist and veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said science. “Sometimes they went to bed healthy and were dead in the morning.”
Sanctuary staff found the condition was 100 percent fatal – when chimpanzees developed symptoms of the disease, they never recovered even when treated. science Reports. “It was really annoying for the staff,” says Gregg Tully, executive director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance Science.
In order to get to the bottom of the suffering of the chimpanzees, Allianz called Goldberg and his team for help The New York Times. The team examined chimpanzee tissue and stool samples for viruses, bacteria and parasites. DNA tests showed that a type of bacteria was found in 68 percent of samples from sick chimpanzees, but none of the healthy chimpanzees. Under the microscope, the bacterium looked like a four-leaf clover, says Leah Owens, a doctoral student in Goldberg’s laboratory Times. According to the newspaper, this unusual shape suggested that it was one of them Sarcina, a poorly studied genus that includes a species that causes gastrointestinal symptoms in humans.
Genome sequencing of the bacterium confirmed that it is closely related to others Sarcina Bacteria is a new species, though. Although the bacterium is strongly associated with chimpanzee disease, researchers have not yet figured out whether the bacterium alone causes disease or whether other factors are involved.
Several other puzzles regarding the disease are also not yet resolved. It’s not clear where the bacterium comes from and why the disease peaks in March each year. One possibility is that the bacterium’s spores are common in the environment, but weather conditions or the biology of the chimpanzee cause the disease. science Reports.
According to scienceVeterinarians at the Tacugama Sanctuary are using the researchers’ findings to treat sick chimpanzees with antacids and antibiotics – much like treating sick chimpanzees Sarcina Infections in humans.