Humans can transmit diseases to gorillas

Prior posts have noted and described a number of human diseases that had their origin in animals. Now it appears that some diseases can be transmitted from humans to gorillas.

Ecotourism has been seen as a boon for countries with "interesting" biota; it provides funding for protection of animals, plants, and ecosystems, and helps increase awareness of the importance of preserving biodiversity. Such economic benefits also encourage locals to conserve this asset rather than exploit it. Despite these benefits, prior posts have noted some of the adverse impacts of ecotourism on local ecosystems.

Researchers noticed that in two parks in Africa where humans are allowed to come in close contact with many of the world's remaining mountain gorillas there were outbreaks of respiratory diseases in the gorillas. The study of one such outbreak, including postmortem examinations of two gorillas that died, lead researchers to report that there was "conclusive evidence" that a human virus (metapneumovirus) was associated with the deaths.

The researchers note the need for minimizing direct human-to-great ape contact to prevent transmission of respiratory pathogens.

The report can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/4/711.htm.