Research Topics


Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) and parasitic infections in chimpanzees and gorillas

SIV has been described in many primate species and chimpanzee SIVcpz is a direct ancestor of HIV-1 causing AIDS in humans. In contrast to HIV, it has been believed that SIV is almost nonpathogenic for primates, but recent studies have shown that chimpanzees can develop AIDS related symptoms. One of our lab’s scientific objectives is to study co-infections between the SIVs and gastrointestinal protozoan/ helminthic parasites in selected populations of wild great apes. Recent development of molecular diagnostics of pathogens and genotyping of individual hosts from fecal samples offer a novel opportunity to study both parasitic infection and SIV into deep details even in wild, unhabituated great apes. In comparison to humans, SIV has coexisted/ coevolved with apes for longer time and therefore obtained knowledge can help our understanding and predict the future of the AIDS-associated parasitic infections in human population.



Impact of increased contact with humans on parasite infections of great apes

Nowadays, both humans and primates are forced to live in close proximity and the risk of direct disease transmission has increased. Additionally, several great ape populations have been habituated which further intensifies close contact with immunologically naive ape populations. Therefore, our lab aims to explain the relationship between habitat fragmentation/ increased anthropogenic disturbance and the communities of parasites in selected great ape populations. The parasite groups of interest are ciliates (Balantidium), apicomplexans (Cryptosporidium), amoebae (e.g. Entamoeba), flagellates (esp. trichomonads and Giardia), Blastocystis spp. microsporidia (esp. Enterocytozoon and Encephalitozoon), parasitic nematodes (Strongyloides) and malaria (Plasmodium).


A study of microbiome of great apes

Contrasting to the wide knowledge of human bacterial ecosystem, there is little known about the normal intestinal microbiota of great apes despite the fact they are recognized as human's closest relatives. Therefore, using next-generation sequencing methods, the HPI-lab team investigates gastrointestinal bacteria species in wild great apes detectable from faecal samples. A detailed characterization of the gastro-intestinal microbiome of wild great apes will allow us to determine the potential overlap between bacterial microbiota of great apes and people coming into contact with them, what may provide important information about the health of the animals.




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