Crowned lemur kept in captivity in Northern Madagascar. Eulemur coronatus. Pet Lemur. Madagascar Conservation & Development. Photo Kim Reuter

Rabies in primates: are aggressive pet lemurs a risk to humans?

Kim E. Reuter, Tara A. Clarke, Marni LaFleur, Melissa S. Schaefer

Abstract


Non-human primates harbor zoonotic pathogens including the rabies virus (Rabies lyssavirus). Though the chances of rabies transmission from primates is low, guidelines currently recommend a post-exposure prophylaxis for unvaccinated persons. In Madagascar, lemurs have been described as carriers of the rabies virus, but a discussion about the risk of rabies transmission to humans from lemurs, particularly in the context of in-country ownership of lemurs, has not been studied. We use qualitative and quantitative data collected from household surveys (n = 271 interviewees who had seen a pet lemur across 12 urban towns), web-based surveys (n = 229), and the literature (publications using data collected by the Institute Pasteur of Madagascar over the last century) to examine the context in which the rabies virus could be transmitted from lemurs to humans. Though only a few wild and pet lemurs in Madagascar have tested positive for rabies, post-exposure treatment is sometimes also sought out following aggressive incidents with lemurs. Many interviewees (22 ± 6%, mean ± 95% confidence interval CI) across 12 towns indicated that pet lemurs they had seen, had a history of aggression. Some lemur owners appear to be aware that their pets could transmit the rabies virus and seek veterinary care to prevent this. The public health burden of rabies is relatively low in Madagascar and despite some anecdotes in the literature, it appears that lemurs are rarely the source of rabies when humans become infected. However, this case study highlights the lack of data and publications regarding the public health implications of human-lemur contact in Madagascar.

 

Résumé

Les primates non-humains hébergent des pathogènes zoonotiques incluant le virus de la rage (Rabies lyssavirus). Bien que les risques de transmission de la rage par les primates soient faibles, les lignes directrices recommandent actuellement une prophylaxie post-exposition pour les personnes non vaccinées. À Madagascar, les lémuriens ont été décrits comme porteurs du virus de la rage, mais une discussion sur le risque de transmission de la rage à l'Homme par les lémuriens, en particulier dans le contexte de la propriété locale des lémuriens, n'a pas été étudiée. Nous utilisons des données qualitatives et quantitatives collectées à partir d'enquêtes auprès des foyers (n = 271 interviewés ayant vu un lémurien dans 12 villes), des enquêtes en ligne (n = 229) et de la littérature (publications utilisant des données collectées par l'Institut Pasteur de Madagascar au cours du siècle dernier) pour examiner le contexte dans lequel le virus de la rage pourrait être transmis par les lémuriens aux humains. Bien que seuls quelques lémuriens sauvages et animaux de compagnie à Madagascar aient été testés positifs à la rage, un traitement post-exposition est parfois également recherché suite à des agressions par des lémuriens. De nombreuses personnes interrogées (22 ± 6%, moyenne ± Intervalle de confiance IC à 95%) dans 12 villes ont indiqué que les animaux de compagnie qu'ils avaient vus avaient des antécédents d'agression. Quelques propriétaires de lémuriens semblent être conscients que leurs animaux de compagnie peuvent transmettre le virus de la rage et demander des soins vétérinaires pour éviter cela. La rage constitue une charge relativement faible pour la santé publique à Madagascar et malgré quelques anecdotes dans la littérature, il semble que les lémuriens soient rarement la source de la rage lorsque les humains sont infectés. Cependant, cette étude de cas souligne le manque de données et de publications concernant les implications / conséquences du contact entre humains et lémuriens sur la santé publique à Madagascar.


Keywords


rabies; lemur; non-human primates; pet trade; public health; disease transmission

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References


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Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510