Rope-chewing technique an easy way to screen monkeys for disease

Monkey sucking on a swab rope
L’hoest’s monkey in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest region, Uganda, uses the nylon oral swab rope and attached retrieval string.

A noninvasive technique involving strawberry jam and a piece of rope is helping surveillance for diseases that might jump from monkeys to humans according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

The UC Davis One Health Institute’s PREDICT Project has been performing global disease surveillance for more than five years, but the logistics of screening primates for zoonotic pathogens — diseases that can be passed from animals to humans — have often presented a challenge. That is because invasive sampling techniques, such as collecting blood or using oral swabs, require anesthesia in the field.

UC Davis graduate student researcher Tierra Smiley Evans and the PREDICT team have now developed a noninvasive method to simplify the sampling of primates in challenging, remote locations. The method is described in a study published in June in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

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