Patterns of gastrointestinal bacterial exchange between chimpanzees and humans involved in research and tourism in western Uganda

Tony L. Goldberg, Thomas R. Gillespie, Innocent B. Rwego, Emily Wheeler, Elizabeth L. Estoff, Colin A. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Ecological overlap may increase the risks of microbial exchange between humans and wild non-human primates. Escherichia coli bacteria were collected from chimpanzees and humans in Kibale National Park, western Uganda, in May and June 2004, in order to examine whether interaction between humans and apes in the wild might affect gastrointestinal bacterial communities in the two species. Chimpanzees harbored bacteria genetically more similar to those of humans employed in chimpanzee-directed research and tourism than to those of humans from a local village. Most humans (81.6%) and 4.4% of chimpanzees harbored at least one isolate resistant to locally available antibiotics. In isolates from both humans and chimpanzees, resistance was higher to five of these antibiotics than to Ceftiofur, an antibiotic not available in the region. These data indicate that humans and apes interacting in the wild can share genetically and phenotypically similar gastrointestinal bacteria, presumably originating from common environmental sources. Strategies to limit transmission of pathogens between humans and primates, whether that transmission is direct or indirect, would benefit both human health and primate conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-517
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, and Makerere University Biological Field Station for granting us permission to conduct this research. We are also grateful for the participation of field assistants from the Kibale Chimpanzee Project and ranger-guides from the Kanyanchu tourism site, as well as for the support of their respective program administrators. Special thanks to Richard Wrangham, Julia Lloyd, Gilbert Isabirye-Basuta, and John Kasenene for their help and insight, and to Kate Inendino, Kara Knuffman, and Carol Maddox for assistance with and advice on laboratory methods. This material is based upon work supported by the Morris Animal Foundation under Award No. D04ZO-67.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Chimpanzee
  • Escherichia coli
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Tourism
  • Transmission
  • Uganda
  • Zoonoses


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