Drug-Resistant Human Staphylococcus Aureus in Sanctuary Apes Pose a Threat to Endangered Wild Ape Populations


  • Contract grant sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; Contract grant numbers: EI 247/8–1, LE 1813/4–1; Contract grant sponsor: BMBF; Contract grant numbers: 01KI1009A, 0315832A.

*Correspondence to: Fabian Leendertz, Robert Koch-Institut, Postfach 650261, 13302 Berlin, Germany. E-mail: LeendertzF@rki.de


Reintroduction of sanctuary apes to natural habitat is considered an important tool for conservation; however, reintroduction has the potential to endanger resident wild apes through the introduction of human pathogens. We found a high prevalence of drug-resistant, human-associated lineages of Staphylococcus aureus in sanctuary chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) from Zambia and Uganda. This pathogen is associated with skin and soft tissue diseases and severe invasive infections (i.e. pneumonia and septicemia). Colonization by this bacterium is difficult to clear due to frequent recolonization. In addition to its pathogenic potential, human-related S. aureus can serve as an indicator organism for the transmission of other potential pathogens like pneumococci or mycobacteria. Plans to reintroduce sanctuary apes should be reevaluated in light of the high risk of introducing human-adapted S. aureus into wild ape populations where treatment is impossible. Am. J. Primatol. 74:1071-1075, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.