Killing of Primates for Meat Could Hinder Medical, AIDS Research
The killing of chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates for food could hinder medical research, including HIV/AIDS efforts, and may cause further spread of disease, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. The "bushmeat" trade is estimated to take in about $50 million a year. Although the meat is illegally sold around the world, the largest markets are in urban areas of Cameroon, Congo and other central African nations. Dr. Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama-Birmingham said on Tuesday at a Capitol Hill hearing that there is "no doubt humans are exposed" to viruses through the spilled blood of the animals. Many HIV/AIDS researchers believe that HIV originated in chimpanzees and made the jump to humans through exposure to primate blood through the hunting and preparing of primate meat. Dr. Eric Chivian, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, also noted that as the primate population dwindles, humans are losing a valuable resource for studying diseases. "Chimps are the most important medical research animals ... not just for HIV/AIDS," he said, adding that primates are also used in hepatitis and Ebola research. "This seems to me the best example of destroying other species is ultimately destroying ourselves," he said. Primatologist Jane Goodall added that the bushmeat trade is "not sustainable for the indigenous populations or the forest." The trade has grown as logging in previously inaccessible jungles has exposed more areas to hunters. The chimps and gorillas are protected under endangered species laws, but the trade continues to flourish illegally (Donald, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.