New study finds how Cameroon population interacting with nonhuman primates like monkeys and apes could put people at risk of infection with new diseases that are spread through them. The findings of the study are published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Animal diseases that infect humans are a major threat to human health, and diseases often spillover to humans from nonhuman primates.
Zoonotic diseases those which originate in other animal species before spilling over to humans now constitute more than 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases. Of these zoonotic diseases, 70 percent reportedly come from wild animals. Because of the similarity between humans and nonhuman primates, these monkeys and apes serve as frequent reservoirs or amplifiers for pathogens that pose a risk to human populations.
The researchers found that Cameroonian adults have frequent physical contact with primates, and more with monkeys than apes. This contact is most often through hunting, butchering, preparing and consuming meat, but also includes injuries sustained from gorillas. Some 85% of questionnaire respondents had eaten primate meat in their lifetimes. In general, the exposure risk in any given village was directly related to the relative density of nonhuman primates and their proximity to human settlements.
"National and international authorities should support improved surveillance of humans and abundant monkey species, as well as popular messages to promote safe meat handling practices," the researchers say.
"Multidisciplinary social science and ecological approaches should be used to improve surveillance and communications with forest populations about neglected tropical diseases."