Balantidium coli Infection in Bonobos

Summary Information

Diseases / List of Parasitic Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names  
Disease Agents
  • Balantidium coli, a ciliate. (J11.96.w2)
    • Trophozoites in the faeces of great apes were 50 - 150 m, ovoid, with longitudinal rows of somatic cirri over the surface. At the anterior end of the body, a cytostome was visible. (J11.96.w2)
    • Cyst forms s are 40-60 m, spherical to ovoid. (B644.3.w3)
  • It is thought that suids are natural reservoirs; synanthropic rats may also act as reservoirs. (J11.96.w2)
  • Found in the caecum and colon. (B336.39.w39)
Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s) --
General Description
Clinical Signs in Great Apes
  • In general, Balantidium coli infections in great apes are asymptomatic (as is generally the case in humans). (B214.3.1.w18, B336.39.w39, J11.96.w2) However, infection has been associated with clinical disease in chimpanzees and gorillas, including lethal ulcerative colitis in a wild-born gorilla at the Limbe Wildlife Centre, Cameroon. (J11.96.w2)
  • Can cause weight loss and anorexia, muscle weakness, watery diarrhoea, tenesmus and rectal prolapse. (B336.39.w39, B644.3.w3)
  • Clinical disease with severe watery diarrhoea can occur in great apes. (B214.3.1.w18)
Pathology in Great Apes
  • GIT: Severe ulcerative colitis can develop. (B644.3.w3)
Further Information
  • Balantidium coli infection is common in apes. (P6.2.w13)
  • Trophozoites of Balantidium coli were detected in faecal samples from 7/23 bonobos (30%) from two of three captive groups (bonobos at Antwerp Zoo, Belgium, Zoologischer Garten Leipzig, Germany and Twycross Zoo, UK were tested). (J11.96.w2)
  • African great apes are thought not to be indigenous hosts for this ciliate in the wild; reports in wild, free-living African great apes are very rare, and in this study none were found in more than 800 samples from wild Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee and Gorilla gorilla - Gorilla. (J11.96.w2)
  • Balantidium coli is commonly found in orphaned bonobos in Kinshasa. (D386.4.3.w4c)
  • Coprophagy may promote transmission of this ciliate in captive great apes. (J11.96.w2)

In great apes

  • Presence of the trophozoites or cysts in faeces. (B336.39.w39)
  • The MIFC sedimentation technique detected trophozoites in great ape faeces more frequently than did the Sheather's solution flotation method, but a few infections were detected with the second method which were not detected by MIFC sedimentation. (J11.96.w2)
  • In orphaned bonobos in Kinshasa, Iodoquinole for 20 days plus Tetracycline for the first 10 days of treatment. (D386.4.3.w4c)
  • In great apes, Metronidazole, Diiodohydroxyquine (Iodoquinole) (30 - 40 mg/kg orally daily for 3 - 21 days), Tetracycline or Doxycycline can be used. (B336.39.w39)
    • Metronidazole needs to be given repeatedly, since this is effective against tissue stages but not against parasites free in the intestinal lumen. (B214.3.1.w18)
  • In apes, paromomycin sulphate has been used. In a Gorilla gorilla - Gorilla, a retaining enema of two grams of tetracycline plus two grams of iodoquinol suspended in 1,500 g of physiological saline was used successfully. (B214.3.1.w18)
  • It is important to sterilise the environment to remove cysts. (D386.4.3.w4c)

In great apes

  • Strict sanitation is important. (B336.39.w39)
  • Newly arrived animals should be quarantined and infected individuals should be isolated until they have been treated. (B336.39.w39)
  • A parasite monitoring programme should be used for early detection of infection. (B336.39.w39)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species
Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

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