Environmental predictors of filarial infection in Amazonian primates: Ecological factors and primate filarial infection

David F. Conga, Hani R. El Bizri, Carlos González Crespo, Luis A. Gomez-Puerta, Gabriela M. Ulloa-Urizar, Pedro E. Pérez-Peña, Mark Bowler, Pedro Mayor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Filarial nematode infections are common in primates, but have received little attention in the Neotropics. Epidemiological data on filarial infections in primates are still too sparse to fully understand the complex of this parasitism, especially because of the difficulty in studying the ecology and epidemiology of wild primates. We describe natural infections by Dipetalonema parasitizing 211 primates belonging to eight free-living primate genera in Amazonia, and assess the relationships between parasitic indicators and climatic (rainfall and river level), ecological (fruiting periods of plants) and biological (sex, species’ body mass, group size and density) factors. The overall prevalence was 64.4% (95% CI: 64.0 – 64.9); parasitic mean abundance (N filariae per individual) and parasitic mean intensity (N filariae per infected host) of infection were 11.9 (95% CI: 8.3 – 15.6) and 18.4 (95% CI: 13.4 – 23.4) filariae/individual, respectively. Although we observed differences in parasitic parameters among primate genera, there was no correlation between parasitic parameters with density, body mass or group size. Sapajus, Cebus and Lagothrix had the highest prevalence and parasitic mean intensity. Using Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii, the most sampled species (n = 92), as a model, we found that the number of filariae per infected host was associated with fruit production in swamp forests during the dry season, the time of food scarcity. The long periods of food shortage may cause environmental stress on primates, impairing their immune defenses and leading to increased parasite load but not affecting infection prevalence. However, the lack of information on vector ecology, key to understand risk factors associated to infection rate, prevents confirming the existence of an infection pattern dependent on food availability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106670
JournalActa Tropica
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was also supported by ERANet17/HLH-0271, and by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) (grant number 201,475/2017–0). D.F. Conga is a part of PNPD-CAPES (UFRA) scholarship and this work was part of his Doctoral Thesis within the Program in Biology of Infectious and Parasitic Agents of the Universidade Federal do Pará.

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the people of all rural communities who participated actively in sample collection, demonstrating that communal participation is an important step in the development of wildlife management. We also thank the institutional support provided by the Peruvian Forestry and Wildlife Service (Ethical Committee for Wildlife Research, No0350–2012-AG-DGFFS-DGEFFS; No0249–2013-AG-DGFFS-DGEFFS), Earthwatch Institute and Fundació Autònoma Solidària (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Amazon
  • Dipetalonema
  • Eco-epidemiology
  • Filariae
  • Neotropical primates


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