1Department of Environmental Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 2Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, NY
April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B
Invasive amoebiasis, caused by Entamoeba histolytica, affects 50 million people worldwide, resulting in 100,000 deaths annually. It is particularly prevalent in developing nations where poor sanitation contributes to food and water contamination. E. histolytica is a zoonotic protozoan parasite that has the potential to infect non-human primates. The lemurs, endemic to Madagascar, are the most endangered mammals worldwide due to habitat loss. As the forests are disappearing, humans and lemurs are coming into contact more frequently, and the potential for E. histolytica to infect lemurs is great. In this study, we screened 177 fecal samples from seven lemur species in the southeastern rainforests of Madagascar for Entamoeba spp. and E. histolytica, to determine if proximity to human villages influences the prevalence of E. histolytica in lemurs. Of the fecal samples, 21.1% (from five lemur species) were positive for Entamoeba spp., and 4% (from three lemur species) were positive for E. histolytica. A slight increase in Entamoeba spp. was found in lemurs living further from human villages, and no relationship was found between lemurs positive for E. histolytica and proximity to human villages. The lemurs positive for E. histolytica were, however, found in just two sites. While these sites vary in distance from nearby villages, they do both experience heavy foot traffic from ecotourists and researchers. Rather than solely focusing on improving sanitation and hygiene practices in Malagasy populations, our findings highlight the importance of improving these practices in ecotourists and researchers in order to protect lemurs from zoonotic parasites.