Chronic enterocolitis in captive primates has long been a problem in both zoo settings and research colonies. The most common clinical symptom observed with chronic enterocolitis is diarrhea, making it a public health concern as well as an animal health and welfare concern. Management of chronic enterocolitis is confounded by its complexities, including the lack of a consistently identifiable causative agent.
A pilot study was performed during the summer of 2009 in collaboration with a local zoo in Saint Paul, MN, which was experiencing an increased incidence and severity of diarrhea among its non-human primate collection. Fecal samples were collected on a weekly basis from 33 animals representing eight different species within the primate collection and Campylobacter and Escherichia coli were isolated using previously published techniques. We recorded the fecal consistency of each sample, noting when abnormally watery diarrhea or bloody diarrhea occurred.
Overall, there was a gross correlation between Campylobacter prevalence within an animal and a history of diarrhea. However, the strains were not clonal and from multiple Campylobacter species, suggesting this correlation was not absolute and did not involve a single causative species or clonal type. In addition, suspect E. coli were assessed for phylotype, genotype and drug susceptibility, and these data were combined with observational data in an effort to identify risk factors associated with chronic enterocolitis. Overall, results suggest that the manifestation of colitis in non-human primate collections is indeed complex and likely involves multiple microbial agents in combination with environmental causes.
The authors would like to thank the Como Zoo Primate Keepers for their assistance with fecal collection and sample identification. A special thank you to Jessica Thorsness for her help with laboratory sample processing, identification of Campylobacter cultures, and managing Dr. Johnson’s lab during the course of this project.
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