Balantidium coli is a ciliate reported in many mammalian species, including African great apes. In the former, asymptomatic infections as well as clinical balantidiasis have been reported in captivity. We carried out a cross-sectional study of B. coli in African great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, and both species of gorillas) and examined 1,161 fecal samples from 28 captive facilities in Europe, plus 2 sanctuaries and 11 wild sites in Africa. Samples were analyzed with the use of Sheather's flotation and merthiolate–iodine–formaldehyde (MIFC) sedimentation. MIFC sedimentation was the more sensitive technique for diagnostics of B. coli in apes. Although not detected in any wild-ape populations, B. coli was diagnosed in 52.6% of captive individuals. Surprisingly, in the apes' feces, trophozoites of B. coli were commonly detected, in contrast with other animals, e.g., Old World monkeys, pigs, etc. Most likely reservoirs for B. coli in captive apes include synantropic rats. High starch diets in captive apes are likely to exacerbate the occurrence of balantidiasis in captive apes.
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