Investigation and Management of Severe Respiratory Tract Disease Caused by Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Streptococcus pneumoniae in a Group of 30 Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2011

Steve Unwin1, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS; James Chatterton1, BVM&S, CertZooMed, MRCVS; Julian Chantrey2, BSc, BVM&S, PhD, DRCPath, MRCVS; Stephanie Sanderson1, MA, VetMB, MSc (WAH), MRCVS

1Animal Health Center, Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, UK; 2School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Neston, UK


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are susceptible to anthroponotic diseases.1-3 Concurrent infections of human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) and Streptococcus pneumoniae have been associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality in this species.3-5 This case describes an outbreak of acute respiratory disease in 30 captive chimpanzees. Nasal and oral swabs were taken from three conscious, compliant individuals for molecular tests (Micropathology Ltd, UK) and the presence of human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) and Streptococcus pneumoniae were confirmed. Routine bacteriology confirmed the antibiotic sensitivities (Liverpool University, UK). Treatment included antibiotics, NSAIDs, and supportive care but three animals had died by day eight post-index case. The surviving chimps showed complete resolution by day 17. All three postmortem examinations revealed severe diffuse subacute suppurative bronchopneumonia. Molecular and bacteriologic testing of respiratory tissues confirmed concurrent hRSV and S. pneumoniae infections.

Anthroponotic infections are the probable cause of this respiratory disease outbreak and disease surveillance amongst staff will aid epidemiologic studies of similar outbreaks in the future. Based on relevant literature,6 biosecurity protocols were improved, with emphasis on hand hygiene and the wearing of gloves and face masks during food preparation and enclosure cleaning. Vaccines are successful in preventing pneumococcal disease in humans, though their safety and efficacy in chimpanzees is not well studied.7,8 To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first reported case of antemortem diagnosis of hRSV and S. pneumoniae in chimpanzees. This enabled a rapid, targeted response to the outbreak, reducing mortalities. These techniques are suitable for disease surveillance in the future.

Literature Cited

1.  Jones EE, Alford PL, Reingold AL, et al. Predisposition to invasive pneumococcal illness following parainfluenza virus type 3 infection in chimpanzees. JAVMA. 1984;185:1351–1353.

2.  Leendertz FH, Pauli G, Maetz-Rensing K, et al. Pathogens as drivers of population declines: the importance of systematic monitoring in great apes and other threatened mammals. Biol Conserv. 2006;131:325.

3.  Köndgen S, Kühl H, N’Goran PK, et al. Pandemic human viruses cause decline of endangered great apes. Curr Biol. 2008;18:260.

4.  Clarke CJ, Watt NJ, Meredith A, et al. Respiratory syncytial virus-associated bronchopneumonia in a young chimpanzee. J Comp Pathol. 1994;110:207.

5.  Szentiks CA, Köndgen S, Silinski S, et al. Lethal pneumonia in a captive juvenile chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) due to human-transmitted human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) and infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae. J Med Primatol. 2009;38:236.

6.  Jefferson T, Foxlee R, Mar CD, et al. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses: systematic review. BMJ. 2008;336:77–80.

7.  Kaye P, Malkani R, Martin S, et al. Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in England and Wales after 7-valent conjugate vaccine (PCV7); potential impact of 10 and 13-valent vaccines. Internal Health Protection Agency Report. Health Protection Agency. 2009.

8.  Solleveld HA, van Zwieten MJ, Heidt PJ, et al. Clinicopathologic study of six cases of meningitis and meningoencephalitis in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Lab Anim Sci. 1984;34:86.


Speaker Information
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Steve Unwin, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS
Animal Health Center
Chester Zoo
Upton-by-Chester, Chester, UK

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