Geophagy as a therapeutic mediator of endoparasitism in a free-ranging group of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta).
Authors: Knezevich M,
Address: Caribbean Primate Research Center, University of Puerto Rico, Punta Santiago 00741, USA.
Journal: Am J Primatol.
Parasite levels were determined for 141 members of a naturally formed social group of rhesus macaques living under free-ranging conditions. Results indicate that group members harbor Trichuris trichiura, Balantidium coli, and large numbers of Strongyloides fuelleborni. Parasite counts decrease significantly with age in this population. Females have significantly fewer parasites than males and a significantly lower prevalence of multiple infections. There were no rank effects regarding parasitosis. While 89% of the animals examined are infected with one or more species of enteric parasite, the prevalence of diarrhea is negligible (2%). The low prevalence of diarrhea in the presence of high parasite loads may be due to the practice of Geophagy, which is engaged in by 76% of group members. Soil eaten by these monkeys contains large amounts of kaolinitic clays. Kaolin-based pharmaceuticals (i.e. Kaopectate) are commonly used in human populations to treat diarrhea and intestinal upsets. The mechanical and pharmaceutical properties of the natural kaolinite-based clays may counteract the effects of parasitosis in this free-ranging population.
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