Wild Animals/Number of disease.


Respected Sir, I am curious to know about diseases. How many disease do wild mammals like chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas have? And how many diseases we humans have?

Dear Lukesh

Thank you for your interesting question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

Eric Berger (http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2010/10/in-all-the-world-how-many-diseases-have-hum) says there are about 100,000 human diseases. I doubt if anyone has done the research to determine how many diseases affect chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans, apart from the diseases that can be caught by or from humans. I suspect that the figure would be similar to 100,000 for each species, but there would be differences due to the distribution of apes and disease-causing organisms.

http://www.berggorilla.org/en/gorillas/general/everyday-life/what-illnesses-do-g and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7003132 give information about diseases suffered by gorillas. http://www.janegoodall.ca/chimps-issues-disease.php gives information about chimpanzee diseases and http://www.orangutanrepublik.org/become-aware/orangutan-specifics-40237/parasite and http://www.orangutanssp.org/uploads/2/4/9/9/24992309/dench_research.pdf give information about orang-utan diseases.  

K.H. Farmer (http://apesportal.eva.mpg.de/status/topic/threats/direct/disease) gives details of human diseases that can be transmitted to apes.  Fabian Leendertz (http://apesportal.eva.mpg.de/status/topic/threats/direct/disease) says that ""Virtually all diseases that can harm us can harm the great apes".  Chimpanzees may have contracted polio from humans, while gorillas may have contracted yaws from humans.
Charles Q. Choi (http://apesportal.eva.mpg.de/status/topic/threats/direct/disease) says humans can catch diseases from apes. Ebola may have spread from gorillas and chimps to humans; HIV originated from chimps and other primates; gorillas may have given humans pubic lice ("the crabs").

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6934309 suggests that chimpanzees and humans are susceptible to the same diseases, so they may suffer from roughly the same number of diseases. Data for gorillas are limited, but I suspect that gorillas would share fewer diseases with humans than chimpanzees do and orang-utans would share far fewer.  

I hope this helps

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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