Sylvatic transmission of arboviruses among Bornean orangutans.

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  • 1 Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

Wild populations of nonhuman primates live in regions of sylvatic arbovirus transmission. To assess the status of arbovirus transmission in Bornean forests and the susceptibility of wild orangutans to arboviral infection, blood samples of wild orangutans, semi-captive orangutans, and humans were examined. Samples were tested by plaque reduction neutralization test for antibodies to viruses representing three families (Flaviviridae, Alphaviridae, and Bunyaviridae), including dengue-2, Japanese encephalitis, Zika, Langat, Tembusu, Sindbis, Chikungunya, and Batai viruses. Both wild and semi-captive orangutan groups as well as local human populations showed serologic evidence of arbovirus infection. The presence of neutralizing antibodies among wild orangutans strongly suggests the existence of sylvatic cycles for dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and sindbis viruses in North Borneo. The present study demonstrates that orangutans are susceptible to arboviralinfections in the wild, although the impact of arboviral infections on this endangered ape remain unknown.