Nine great apes from the San Diego Zoo (USA) have become the first animals – other than humans – to receive their covid vaccine. Four orangutans and five bonobos who received their two doses in February at this Californian zoo where eight gorillas were infected with this disease, the first great apes affected by the new coronavirus.
It was at that moment that the zoo's chief conservationist, Nadine Lamberski made the decision to seek a vaccine for her great apes. “This is not the norm. In my career, I have not had access to an experimental vaccine so early in the process and I have not had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one ", explained Lamberski to the National Geographic magazine, which has advanced the news .
This vaccine has been developed for dogs and cats, but in principle this is not a problem for great apes
The vials with which the apes have been vaccinated come from the Zoetis veterinary laboratory, which began to develop these drugs as soon as it became known that a dog had been infected with covid as early as February 2020. This vaccine has been developed for dogs and cats, but in principle this is not a problem for great apes, since it is common to use drugs developed for pets with these primates because they are designed for the pathogen, not for the species
So in February, while they were distracted with treats, they were pricking these nine animals. Among them is the orangutan Karen , which thus becomes a milestone in the history of veterinary science for the second time. In 1994, Karen was the first non-human primate to receive open heart surgery and now, 27 years later, she is part of the first group of great apes vaccinated against COVID that has been reported so far. The vaccine had only been experimentally tested in dogs and cats.
There are two reasons for vaccinating these animals. On the one hand, in other animals such as minks , there is concern that the flow of the coronavirus between species ends up causing more dangerous mutations due to its lethality or contagion capacity. But above all because of the fear that this virus poses a threat to the conservation of the great apes, which are themselves very threatened. The circumstance that the eight gorillas were infected shows that, due to their way of living in close-knit families, the spread of the coronavirus among their populations could be devastating in an endangered species.
So far, the contagion has been confirmed in large felines, such as tigers, lions, snow leopards and pumas, and ferrets and minks, in addition to the aforementioned gorillas, domestic dogs and cats. The Zoetis laboratory assures that the vaccine has proven its efficacy and safety in the latter, and that it works with the intention of tackling the problem of minks, which when infected have generated variants that have alarmed scientists to the point of ordering their extermination by millions in the farms dedicated to its exploitation.
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