Primates, Pathogens, and Evolution: A Context for Understanding Emerging Disease

  • Kristin N. Harper
  • Molly K. Zuckerman
  • Bethany L. Turner
  • George J. Armelagos
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


The world is rife with potential pathogens. Of those that infect humans, it is estimated that roughly 20 % are of nonhuman primate origin. The same ease characterizes pathogen transmission in the other direction, from humans to nonhuman primates. This latter problem has increasingly serious ramifications for conservation efforts, as growing numbers of ecotourists and researchers serve as potential vectors of disease. Here, we present an analysis of major cross-species transmission events between human and nonhuman primates. In particular, we consider HIV and malaria as case studies in which nonhuman primate pathogens emerged and became permanent fixtures in human populations. The human practices that facilitate such events are considered, as well as the evolutionary consequences of these events. In addition, we describe human-to-nonhuman primate transmission events and discuss the potential of human pathogens to adapt to nonhuman primate hosts. The topic of emerging infections is addressed, in both human and nonhuman species, in light of changing patterns of contact and novel adaptations on the part of pathogens and hosts.


Respiratory Syncytial Virus Human Pathogen Wild Chimpanzee Mountain Gorilla Host Switch 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin N. Harper
    • 1
  • Molly K. Zuckerman
    • 2
  • Bethany L. Turner
    • 3
  • George J. Armelagos
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health SciencesColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern CulturesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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