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McGill researcher pioneers the study of primate disease ecology

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September 20, 2005

Source: McGill University:
http://www.mcgill.ca/newswire/?ItemID=16845

McGill researcher pioneers the study of primate disease ecology

Source: University Relations Office (URO) [newswire]

September 20, 2005

What do Lyme disease, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and HIV have in common? They are all zoonotic diseases a scientific term for diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans.

Although these diseases garner a fair share of public attention, the underlying mechanisms of disease transmission from animals to humans are poorly understood and are largely based on popular speculation rather than solid scientific fact. With the publication of a paper entitled "Primates and the Ecology of Their Infectious Diseases" in the July/August 2005 issue of the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, McGill's Dr. Colin Chapman hopes to change all that.

Dr. Chapman, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, and co-authors Drs. Tom Gillespie and Tony Goldberg of the University of Illinois provide a scientific framework for the study of infectious diseases and their importance to the ecology and conservation of primates. "Monkeys and apes often share parasites with humans, so understanding the ecology of infectious diseases in non-human primates is paramount," says Dr. Chapman. "A good example is the HIV viruses, the causative agents of human AIDS, which evolved recently from related viruses of chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys (a type of monkey), or the outbreaks of Ebola virus, which is transmitted from local apes. Studying how environmental change may promote contact between humans and nonhuman primates, thus increasing the possibility of sharing infectious diseases detrimental to humans or nonhuman primates, is now crucial to both conservation and human planning."

In addition to creating a scientific model, Dr. Chapman is eager to stimulate interest in a newly emerging field one so new that it does not yet have an official designation. Dr. Chapman calls the burgeoning field "primate disease ecology."

"I think it's fair to say that this is a time of really rapid growth in the field of primate disease ecology," he says. "Most studies in this field are quite recent. The paper was really designed to highlight this young field. We hope it will spark a lot of interest among talented young academics to pursue studies in this field."

One future addition to Dr. Chapman's team is graduate student Valerie Schoof, who is transferring to McGill from Tulane University, New Orleans, to continue studies in this area of anthropology.

About McGill University

McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive university and has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill has 21 faculties and professional schools which offer more than 300 programs from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. McGill attracts renowned professors and researchers from around the world and top students from more than 150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse education environments in North America. There are approximately 23,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students. It is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities. McGill's two campuses are located in Montreal, Canada.

Contact:

Colin Chapman

Professor

Department of Anthropology

514-398-1242

Source:

Marilena Paolucci

Communications officer (interim)

Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)

514-398-8585


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