Gastrointestinal bacterial transmission among humans, mountain gorillas, and livestock in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Innocent B. Rwego, Gilbert Isabirye-Basuta, Thomas R. Gillespie, Tony L. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations

Abstract

Habitat overlap can increase the risks of anthroponotic and zoonotic pathogen transmission between humans, livestock, and wild apes. We collected Escherichia coli bacteria from humans, livestock, and mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, from May to August 2005 to examine whether habitat overlap influences rates and patterns of pathogen transmission between humans and apes and whether livestock might facilitate transmission. We genotyped 496 E. coli isolates with repetitive extragenic palindromic polymerase chain reaction fingerprinting and measured susceptibility to 11 antibiotics with the disc-diffusion method. We conducted population genetic analyses to examine genetic differences among populations of bacteria from different hosts and locations. Gorilla populations that overlapped in their use of habitat at high rates with people and livestock harbored E. coli that were genetically similar to E. coli from those people and livestock, whereas E. coli from gorillas that did not overlap in their use of habitats with people and livestock were more distantly related to human or livestock bacteria. Thirty-five percent of isolates from humans, 27% of isolates from livestock, and 17% of isolates from gorillas were clinically resistant to at least one antibiotic used by local people, and the proportion of individual gorillas harboring resistant isolates declined across populations in proportion to decreasing degrees of habitat overlap with humans. These patterns of genetic similarity and antibiotic resistance among E. coli from populations of apes, humans, and livestock indicate that habitat overlap between species affects the dynamics of gastrointestinal bacterial transmission, perhaps through domestic animal intermediates and the physical environment. Limiting such transmission would benefit human and domestic animal health and ape conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1600-1607
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Biology
Volume22
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

Keywords

  • Disease ecology
  • Escherichia coli
  • Primates
  • Zoonoses
  • ecosystem health

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