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Keywords:

  • immune-endocrine interaction;
  • immunosuppression;
  • primate;
  • testosterone;
  • cortisol;
  • dominance rank

Abstract

Immune-endocrine interactions have been evaluated much less frequently in nonhuman primates, and this may be due, in part, to logistical and ethical concerns regarding trapping and sampling of endangered species, especially apes. Using noninvasive fecal collection methods, the present study evaluates possible relationships between fecal steroid levels and gastrointestinal parasite infections in the Ngogo chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Because both testosterone and cortisol exhibit immunosuppressive effects in vitro and in other animal models, it was hypothesized that both testosterone and cortisol would be positively associated with gastrointestinal parasite infections in these animals. When placed in a mixed model simultaneously, both testosterone (F = 4.98, df = 1, P = 0.033) and cortisol (F = 5.94, df = 1, P = 0.020) were positively associated with total (helminth and protozoan) parasite richness (the number of unique intestinal parasite species recovered from hosts' fecal samples). It is possible that androgens and corticoids alter the ability of a host to mount an effective immune response against concomitant infection with multiple parasitic species. The utility of fecal samples for assessing immune-endocrine interactions is discussed. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.