In 2016 and 2017, Lawsonia intracellularis was isolated from several pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) presenting with diarrhea in Mulhouse Zoo (eastern France). To this day, infection with this bacterium has rarely been described in nonhuman primates (NHP) in captivity or in the wild and there are no data about the prevalence or transmission of the disease. This study focuses on finding the prevalence of this infection amongst Mulhouse Zoo's NHP collection and trying to identify a source of contamination responsible for this epizooty. Forty-eight real-time PCR were conducted on feces from all NHP species in the zoo and on small mammals trapped in the NHP housing structures. No NHP was experiencing symptoms at the time of the study, however test results showed that Lawsonia intracellularis can be found in 61.76% (21/34) of the group total (n = 34) and the prevalence even increases to 92.3% (12/13) in the Lemuriform infraorder (n = 13). In small mammals (n = 14), prevalence of the bacterium is 57.17% (8/14) including 77.78% in rodents (7/9). The results of this study show that several NHP species are healthy carriers and some species of small mammals can be considered as a potential source of contamination. Because of the difficulty encountered trying to isolate the bacterium, it is plausible that infections caused by Lawsonia intracellularis have been underdiagnosed to this day, and that it could be an emerging disease in Europe. Therefore, using real-time PCR to search for this bacterium seems essential in case of diarrhea occurring in nonhuman primates. Moreover, even though further studies on contamination sources need to be conducted, the issue of the presence of rodents in NHP housing structures has to be taken very seriously and tackled with the utmost care.
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