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Keywords:

  • Oesophagostomum bifurcum;
  • zoonoses;
  • non-human primates;
  • intestinal nematodes;
  • molecular diagnosis;
  • Ghana

Summary

In northern Togo and Ghana, human infection with the parasitic nematode Oesophagostomum bifurcum is of major health importance. Elsewhere, oesophagostomiasis is considered a zoonotic infection, non-human primates being the natural host. We examined 349 faecal samples of the olive baboon, mona monkey and black and white colobus monkey from two geographically distinct areas in Ghana, outside the region endemic for O. bifurcum in humans. Using both microscopy and species-specific PCR, we found a high prevalence of O. bifurcum (75–99%) in olive baboons and mona monkeys. The majority of the test-positive faecal samples contained large numbers of larvae after copro-culture (>100). No O. bifurcum was detected in the faeces of the black and white colobus monkeys. Observational studies on the behaviour of the non-human primates, focusing on defecation, food consumption and the sharing of habitat with the local human population, indicated favourable conditions for zoonotic transmission. Given that no human infection with O. bifurcum has been reported from either study area, the present findings support the hypothesis that O. bifurcum from humans in the north of Ghana, and O. bifurcum from olive baboons and/or mona monkeys are distinct.