MPI-EVA Department of Primatology  
  Main Page  
  The Great Ape Task Force  
  The collaborative study on emerging infectious diseases in great apes  
  Reports, sample protocols, guidelines etc.  
  Relevant references  
  Relevant Internet-Links  
  The collaborative study on emerging infectious diseases in great apes  


  • Develop a collaborative, multi-site study
  • Cross-sectional study:
    • cover varying degrees of disruption from pristine to highly threatened
    • effects of climate change, tourism and research
  • Longitudinal studies – within-site changes through time with increasing human activity

Common Activities

  • Standardized web-based measurement
    • Routine health monitoring of selected mammalian species, monkeys, apes and adjoining human populations
    • Monitoring of vectors
      • Mosquitoes, tsetses, blackflies
      • Ticks
      • Rodents
      • Snails
    • Assessment of environmental variables and human activities in ape areas


  Does environmental disruption increase frequency and severity of infectious disease?
    By increasing the contact rates across/within host species?
By increasing the conditions favorable for vectors?
By increasing the large-scale movement of infectious hosts
By increasing the susceptibility to disease from environmental stressors?
  Are certain diseases more likely to be increased by disruption?
Are cross-species infections mostly one-way or two-way?


  In order to push forward the pilot study on pathogens that can be found in non-invasive samples (feces and urine), we have put together a preliminary list of laboratories that are willing to contribute, with the pathogens they are able to detect and some of the preservation methods needed to do so. We intentionally tried to limit us to methods that can easily be done under the field conditions. The initial plan we discussed in Leipzig was to limit ourselves to SIV-STLV-Strongloides, but some more pathogens could be done readily with the same samples that would importantly expand our knowledge of great apes health.

A number of people and laboratories have already offered to provide these analyses spanning a range of pathogens.
In addition, if any of you may have already analyzed some of the pathogens of great apes (e.g. SIV or parasites), so if you are interested in participating in this study, or if know of someone, please let us know what has already been done. However, we know from the study done with Taï chimpanzees, that a molecular characterisation of the pathogen is key to understand the transmission mechanisms, so we invite also people working on the molecular level to share their knowledge.

For this pilot study, we would propose to start with samples of the best quality, so easily accessible and very fresh samples from habituated individuals. In a second step, we may think about comparing results from habituated groups to non-habituated ones of the area, however – to our experience - this is very difficult work and it requires a lot of time to obtain good quality samples.


Samples shipment

To keep things simple for you in the field, all tubes should be send to RKI in Germany (Fabian Leendertz, Robert Koch Institute, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin, Germany). As you may remember from the conference, this Institute is performing a lot of analyses and the delivery of import permits in Germany will be easy since the RKI is the official German national institute of health. RKI will then enter each sample in a databank to make sure that we have a list of all samples provided and keep track for each of them of the analysis that has been done, as well as what the location of the sample. Afterwards, RKI will make sure that the samples are send (or extracted DNA if extraction was already performed) to the participating laboratories. Beatrice Hahn has offered to be the US distributor of the samples.

  top  Top  

Provision of Tubes and Material

Beatrice Hahn will provide the RNA-later tubes, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) will provide the silica tubes, the tubes with Glycerine and (if requested by the “parasitologists”) the tubes containing Formaldehyde. In addition, plastic spatula, pipettes and crytotubes for urine samples and other material necessary for sample collection will be included.

The RKI will sent the packages including all these tubes and material as well as the sampling protocols to all field sites wanting to take part in this pilot study.


Amount of samples analysed per field site

For a start, the laboratories at RKI (coordination Georg Pauli) are planning to analyse a total of ~ 100 samples/year as long as no external funding is available. However, we propose that field workers should collect samples from at least 50 individuals, if possible from all known individuals of the study group. Even if the RKI will not be able to analyse all samples collected, others may be interested in analysing more and – in case something of importance for the great ape health is found – further analysis will be done with more individuals.


Sample collection:

Each faeces will be preserved in 4 different ways (RNA-later, dried on silica, glycerine and formaldehyde). We are presently discussing details of sample preservation, perhaps we may not need to use all 4 methods.

We are aware of the fact that these are a lot of conservation methods, but in order to find out more about pathogens in wild great apes and what may affect their health, this effort should be worth it.

Since there will be many analyses conducted with each sample we have to stress, that only samples of very good quality should be collected, analyses of a single sample will cost several hundreds of Euro!

A detailed protocol will be available soon.


Field sites

A number of field projects have already contacted us to say that they are willing to participate in this pilot project. We ask here all additional field projects that would like to be part to contact us so that we can add them to the list and prepare the sampling material for your site.

In addition to collecting and analyzing these samples from the respective field-sites, the following information would be helpful to allow a coherent analysis and data for modeling of disease transmission

  top  Top  

Health monitoring of:

  • Animals
    • Habituated/unhabituated
    • Wild/rehabilitated/sanctuary
    • Handled/unhandled
  • Humans
    • Collaboration with pre-existing health services
    • New surveys
      • Clinical
      • Questionnaire
  • Livestock/Domestic animals
  • The environment
    • Soil sampling
    • Water sampling
    • Remote sensing
    • Climate change

Monitoring of non-infectious issues of the respective animals:

  • Stress
  • Pollution
    • Heavy metals
    • Pesticides
  • Trauma
    • Human-caused
    • Non-human

Host-species measures

  • Ape population size/structure
  • Human population
    • Numbers
    • Distribution
    • Socioeconomic status
    • Demography
  top  Top  
 image: C. Boesch