Scientists See Leprosy in Wild Chimpanzees for the First Time

Scientists See Leprosy in Wild Chimpanzees for the First Time

An ancient disease in humans seems to have jumped the species barrier to one of our closest primate cousins. On Wednesday, researchers detailed finding cases of leprosy among two separate groups of chimpanzees in West Africa—the first ever documented among wild chimps. The origin of these outbreaks is unknown, but it’s thought that the disease remains rare in the wider chimp community. Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, making it a relative of tuberculosis bacteria. Similar to viruses, and unlike most other bacteria, leprosy bacteria survive by invading our cells and hijacking their functions in order to replicate. Adding to its peculiar nature, symptoms following infection may not appear for years to two decades. These initially include pale-looking lesions or sores. Over time, the chronic infection can gradually …
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