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Acta Trop. 1998 Aug 15;71(1):73-82.

Some gastro-intestinal parasites of zoonotic (public health) importance commonly observed in old world non-human primates in Kenya.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Karen, Nairobi.


A study was undertaken to categorise some gastro-intestinal (GIT) parasites commonly observed in Kenyan non-human primates (NHPs) on the basis of their health implications for humans. Six species of locally available non-human primates, namely olive baboons (Papio cyanocephalus anubis), Vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops), Sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), Black and white colobus (Colobus abyssinicus), Debrazzas monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus) and Grey and Black mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus and Cercocebus albigena) which were imported from Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) were sampled. Simple laboratory methods involving microscopic examination of stained faecal smears were used. Wet faecal smears stained with iodine and unstained controls were used for conventional parasites while acid fast staining was employed to detect Cryptosporidium oocysts. Both helminths and protozoan parasites were detected in varying rates in all primate species. Trichuris sp. was the most frequent helminth followed by Strongyloides fulleborni, Strongyles sp. and Schistosoma mansoni in that order. Entamoeba coli was the most common protozoan followed, respectively, by Balantidiun coli and Entamoeba histolytica. All primate species examined were infected with all the parasites listed except the black and white colobus. Cryptosporidium was found in both clinically normal and diarrhoeic baboons and vervets. Most taxa of parasites observed could prejudice human welfare directly through infection and causation of illness and indirectly through increased cost of livestock production and decreased availability of animal proteins. The potential of some of the agents to cause opportunistic infections in immuno-compromised persons was suggested as a likely threat to man's well-being. This would warrant such person's exemption from high risk operations at primate and other animal facilities in developing countries. Further, specific studies are needed to provide data on the epidemiology, socio-economic impact and pathogenicity of the primate parasites to other species of animals and man.

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