Our Work

An Innovative Model for Detecting Interspecies Disease Transmission and Novel Pathogen Detection at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, Democratic Republic of Congo

Project Objectives

Recent studies have highlighted Central Africa as an emerging infections hotspot and African apes as a reservoir of pathogens posing risk to humans. We will harness a uniquely skilled team to pilot an index-cluster study for detection of interspecies disease transmission at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We will focus on respiratory viruses given the transmissibility, sample accessibility, and potential for global distribution. We will establish surveillance for symptomatic respiratory illness among humans and bonobos (Index Cases). For each of five separate index events, we will serially sample (5 days) a contact cluster of 5 bonobos and 5 human staff to determine secondary attack rate and risk factors for transmission. The Institute for Biomedical Research in Kinshasa will process samples and perform screening studies. We will detect known viruses from respiratory samples using an established multiplex PCR algorithm in Durham, NC and create a biorepository for biomarkers of early disease and pathogen discovery. Veterinary history of the sanctuary bonobos suggests we will document pathogen transmission between and among the sanctuary bonobos and the animal care staff. We will use the generated data to apply for focused grant opportunities with plans to extend our work to sanctuaries across Central Africa and expand our epidemiological and diagnostic queries. Our ultimate goal is to gain unprecedented access to the little studied primate and human populations where Duke is uniquely positioned to be a leader in emerging human and primate disease surveillance.


Department & School

Medicine: Infectious Diseases
School of Medicine


  • Duke Global Health Institute


  • Duke Evolutionary Anthropology
  • UCLA
  • Lola Ya Bonobo
  • Duke-NUS

Project Status


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