Several orangutans and bonobos at the San Diego Zoo are celebrated as the world’s first great apes to receive a COVID-19 vaccine specifically designed for animals.
The zoo’s four orangutans and five bonobos last month received two doses of an experimental vaccine specially made by a veterinary pharmaceutical company, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a non-profit conservation organization, announced on Wednesday. .
One of the orangutans who received the vaccine, Karen, was already a pioneer in animal health, as she was the first monkey to undergo open heart surgery in 1994, the organization said.
The inoculations came after eight gorillas at the zoo tested positive for the coronavirus in early January. At the time, they were believed to be the first known cases of COVID-19 among these primates in the United States and possibly around the world.
A spokesperson for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance called the vaccinations a “perfect case study” for potentially helping the world’s gorilla population and improving scientists’ understanding of the virus and its effects on monkeys around the world.
“Fewer than 5,000 gorillas remain in the wild and, because they live in close family groups, researchers fear that if one catches the virus the infection could spread quickly and put populations already at risk. precarious, ”the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said in a statement. Release.
Zoetis, who developed the experimental SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for animals, said the vaccine was initially studied in dogs and cats, but researchers then turned to mink as infections subsided. spread among this species in Denmark and other countries. The company said it turned its attention to the great apes following a request from the San Diego Zoo.
There was no way to know if the monkeys would have an adverse immune reaction to the vaccine doses, but Nadine Lamberski, head of conservation and wildlife health at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, said the risks were well known in advance.
“It’s not like we randomly take a vaccine and give it to a new species. A lot of thought and research has gone into it – what is the risk of doing it and what is the risk of not doing it. Our motto is, above all, do no harm, ”she told National Geographic.
It is also not unusual to give a vaccine that has been tested and developed for one species to another, because vaccines are designed for a specific pathogen and not for a species, Lamberski said.
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