The findings of a new study have stunned scientists as they have identified incidents of leprosy among wild chimpanzees for the first time. The cases of leprosy among wild chimpanzees have been detected in Guinea-Bissau and the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Experts have said that it is the first time leprosy has been detected in any non-human species in Africa. Scientists have said that leprosy is a contagious disease that can cause severe damage to nerves, skin, and the respiratory tract among humans. The disease can cause the growth of lesions and nodules and the loss of sensation in the limbs and blindness, said the experts. In the new study, health experts have installed camera traps to evaluate the behaviors of chimpanzees from 2015 to 2019. While examining the images taken by camera traps, the authors of the study have found two males and one female chimpanzee with serious leprosy-like lesions and nodules. They have said that these symptoms are experienced by humans as their disease progresses over time. One of the health experts who have been involved in the study, Dr. Kimberley Hockings has said that when he has seen images of these chimpanzees with lesions and nodules on their faces, he has recognized it right then and there that it is leprosy, as these lesions and nodules have been similar to what leprosy does in humans. Dr. Kimberley Hockings has been working as a senior professor of conservation science at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
The authors of the study have said that it is still unclear how these chimpanzees have been infected with the deadly disease. However, they think that the disease might have spread among wild chimpanzees due to either exposure to infected humans or other unidentified environmental sources. Dr. Kimberley Hockings have said that earlier, as well, leprosy has been detected in wild animals. Red squirrels have been infected with leprosy in the UK before. Armadillos have been detected with leprosy in the United States. However, it is quite shocking for scientists to identify the disease in chimpanzees as they have been well researched earlier. Dr. Kimberley Hockings has said that there is a need for further research to find out how exactly these chimpanzees have contracted the disease and what will be the future of these species that are already facing a risk due to certain factors such as hunting and habitat loss. Dr. Kimberley Hockings has claimed the new findings are quite worrisome for conservation efforts and scientists. She has said that treating chimpanzees who are dealing with a contagious disease like leprosy can be very challenging.
The authors of the new study have said that the treatment of leprosy among humans is quite undemanding if it is detected at an early stage. However, treating the disease in animals that are not accustomed to humans such as these specific populations is quite challenging. Dr. Kimberley Hockings has said that it is very hard to administer antibiotics. She has said that there are many limitations to treating animals that have been infected with leprosy. Dr. Hockings has said that experts need to consider ethical propositions of darting chimpanzees; therefore, it makes the treatment for leprosy in chimpanzees far more challenging. Dr. Hockings has said that she is going to incorporate the findings of this study into her large-scale research that will focus on human and great ape communications as experts have considered humans as the key host for leprosy and now the disease is surfacing among wild chimpanzees. The outcomes of the new report have been released in a journal known as Nature.