USD Professor & Research Team Find Tuberculosis in Wild-Captured Lemur, Most Likely Contracted by Human Contact

University of San Diego (USD) Assistant Professor Marni LaFleur, PhD, alongside a team of researchers, diagnosed a human variant of tuberculosis in an illegally wild-captured ring-tailed lemur. The research, which was published on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases site, found that the lemur was most likely in close contact with a human.

“This animal was probably in close contact with somebody who had tuberculosis and would have caught it either by sharing a piece of food or water that was contaminated or aerosol drops in the air,” said Marni LaFleur, PhD, Assistant Professor at USD.

Researchers believe the animal was most likely captured as a baby, probably before he was weaned, and became nutritionally stressed, making him more susceptible to tuberculosis. LaFleur says the trafficking of wild lemurs is very common. The animals are captured as babies and illegally sold as pets or used for tourist attractions such as, allowing tourists to feed or take photos with the lemurs.

While LaFleur says the transmission of tuberculosis between humans and animals has been found in cases involving meerkats and elephants, she says this is another example of what happens when humans and wildlife are in close proximity to one another. LaFleur also hopes this research can help reexamine the way people interact with wild animals.

“The thing that we don’t know and the thing that will be important to know in the future is if an infected animal can transmit it to other animals or to other humans. We don’t have evidence of that but that doesn’t mean that it can't happen or hasn’t happened -- that’s what the worrisome thing is,” said LaFleur. 

For a look at LaFleur’s research, you can access that here. 

Contact:

Elena Gomez
elenagomez@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-2739