SCARY NEWS, AS WILD CHIMPANZEES IN WEST AFRICA HAVE HAD LEPROSY FOR SOME TIME
So diseases are natural phenomena. Or, they were at least until we started dabbling with them ourselves. But one of the oldest is literally biblical. And I’m talking about leprosy, of course. A disease everyone was (and should still be) afraid of. Leper colonies were a death sentence, if a slow one. Well, and total rejection. So it’s strange news to hear about wild chimpanzees in West Africa who have leprosy. So far, it’s not clear what this means, except that it’s scary and it’s been true for a time. We’re just learning about it now.
TWO WILD CHIMPANZEE GROUPS FAR APART HAVE BIBLICAL DISEASE FROM OLDENTIMES
But we also don’t know how these wild chimpanzees got infected with leprosy. It’s a bacteria related to tuberculosis, which is also pretty scary. But leprosy can take several years up to two decades to actually manifest in someone. Some people call leprosy Hansen’s disease. That just makes me think of a bad band, and not scary at all. Fortunately today, only 5% of people aren’t immune to leprosy. And they can get treatment today, totally cured. But wild chimpanzees? It’s very strange to learn that two different groups not near each other show signs of infection that aren’t new.
WILD CHIMPANZEES ARE ENDANGERED, AND THIS NEWS COULD ONLY MAKE IT WORSE
It also takes time to catch it. In other words, a lot of contact and exposure. This only makes the wild chimpanzee infection a lot stranger. But wild chimpanzees in West Africa are already endangered. So any loss of these amazing creatures will only make it worse. So far, we have no data about how this disease will play out among them. I, for one, can’t help but be apprehensive that this bacterial infection could change with wild chimpanzees and return to us in a less treatable form. Sure, animals like armadillos can have it (among others). But these are our cousins….