Non-invasive quantification of immunoglobulin A in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania

Emma L. Lantz, Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, Matthew R. Heintz, Carson M. Murray, Iddi Lipende, Dominic A. Travis, Rachel M. Santymire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is the primary antibody responsible for mucosal defense in mammals and has been used as a marker for chronic stress and immune status. Therefore, this antibody may provide a more reliable indicator of an individual's immunocompetence than is currently available through other methods. Immunoglobulin A has never before been quantified in a wild population of non-human primates using non-invasive sample collection techniques. In this study, we present methodology for non-invasive IgA extraction in the field and provide quantification of mean fecal IgA concentrations in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). During the study period (November 2009–October 2010), we collected fecal samples (N = 1463) from 59 individuals at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. We modified a field extraction technique for steroidal hormones to extract IgA from the fecal samples and then quantified mean IgA concentrations (ng/g) using a commercial human IgA enzyme immunoassay. Mean IgA concentration varied among individuals but not by sex or reproductive status. Mature animals tended toward higher mean IgA concentration than immature. Mean IgA concentration differed by quartile season, following a similar pattern previously observed for respiratory illness rates in this population, with the late dry season having significantly higher averages than the late wet. A circadian rhythm was also evident with mean IgA concentrations higher in samples collected in the latter half of the day. These demographic and temporal patterns of IgA concentration provide baseline values necessary to interpret future results, which may be combined with other health values to better understand the role of health and long-term stress in wild great ape populations. Am. J. Primatol. 80:e22558, 2018.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22558
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • field methods
  • great apes
  • health
  • immune system
  • stress

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