The influence of body mass index, age and sex on inflammatory disease risk in semi-captive chimpanzees

Vincent Obanda, George Paul Omondi, Patrick Ilukol Chiyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Obesity and ageing are emerging issues in the management of captive primates, including Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes. Studies on humans show that obesity and old age can independently increase the risk of inflammatory- associated diseases indicated by elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cells and proteins in the blood of older or obese compared to levels in younger or non-obese individuals. In humans, sex can influence the outcomes of these risks. Health management of these problems in chimpanzee populations requires an understanding of similarities and differences of factors influencing inflammatory disease risks in humans and in chimpanzees. We examined the relationship between age, sex and Body Mass Index (BMI) with hematological biomarkers of inflammatory disease risk established for humans which include the neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (NLR), and neutrophil, white blood cell (WBC), platelet microparticle and platelet counts. We found that higher values of NLR, neutrophil count and platelet microparticle count were associated with higher BMI values and older age indicating increased inflammation risk in these groups; a similar pattern to humans. There was a strong sex by age interaction on inflammation risk, with older males more at risk than older females. In contrast to human studies, total WBC count was not influenced by BMI, but like humans, WBC and platelet counts were lower in older individuals compared to younger individuals. Our findings are similar to those of humans and suggest that further insight on managing chimpanzees can be gained from extensive studies of ageing and obesity in humans. We suggest that managing BMI should be an integral part of health management in captive chimpanzee populations in order to partially reduce the risk of diseases associated with inflammation. These results also highlight parallels in inflammation risk between humans and chimpanzees and have implications for understanding the evolution of inflammation related diseases in apes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere104602
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 14 2014
Externally publishedYes


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