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Nov 28, 2011

A cross‐sectional survey of the prevalence of Entamoeba histolytica in non‐human primate populations


A cross‐sectional survey of the prevalence of Entamoeba histolytica in non‐human primate populations

Entamoeba species are important pathogens in non‐human primates (NHPs), yet little is known about disease prevalence in the United Kingdom. Reports suggest prevalence has increased, but population‐based data to substantiate this are lacking.

This study estimated amoebiasis prevalence in NHP populations at Twycross Zoo (TZ, England) and Tree House (TH, India), using individual identification protocols that introduced edible glitter to the feed of several primate species. Although this method has been used extensively in ungulate and carnivore reproduction and nutritional studies, this is believed to be the first time that an extensive study across a number of different primate species has been used to help in the identification of individuals for parasite infection.

This method has subsequently been utilised in nutritional experiments on lemurs at the zoo and has been called upon for primate studies elsewhere. Disease prevalence was described by site, species, and patient demographics. 126 faecal samples were collected from 35 individual NHPs at TZ and 80 samples collected from 26 individuals at TH.

Microscopic examination revealed high rates of amoebic infection at both institutions (84.6% and 81.1%, respectively). Infection with Entamoeba spp. was significantly higher at TH (57.7%) than TZ (16.2%). Old World monkeys demonstrated significantly greater amoebic infection (50.0%) than New World monkeys (11.1%). Molecular analysis of TZ samples revealed no E.histolytica or E. dispar infections, suggesting misidentification of microscopically identified amoebic cysts or the presence of E. moshkovskii.

Further research to develop more accurate, cost‐effective and simple diagnostic tests for NHP amoebiasis is urgently needed.


Twycross Zoo

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2011 for Best research project



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