Four orangutans and five bonobos each received two doses of an experimental vaccine developed by the specialist firm Zoetis.
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They became the first non-human primates to be injected against Covid-19. Great ape residents of the San Diego Zoo were bitten with a vaccine designed specifically for animals, zoo officials said on Twitter on Friday (March 5).
A win for science: our partners at @Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, developed a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) that we used to vaccinate great apes at the Zoo. The vaccine was created specifically for animals. @NatGeo https://t.co/ZpM5QVD4pl
– San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (@sandiegozoo) March 5, 2021
In early January, several gorillas at this southern California zoo, one of the largest in the world, had tested positive for Covid-19 and placed in quarantine after showing symptoms. This was the first known case of natural transmission of the virus to great apes. They have since recovered.
The following month, four orangutans and five bonobos at the San Diego Zoo each received two doses of an experimental vaccine developed by the specialist firm Zoetis. “Never in my career have I had access to an experimental vaccine so early in the process, and never have I had such a desire to use it”, says Nadine Lamberski, health manager of the San Diego Zoo, cited by the National Geographic site. Among the lucky recipients of the vaccine is Karen, a female orangutan who in 1994 became the first non-human primate to undergo open heart surgery.
Studies have shown that certain species of primates – like humans who fall into this category – can contract the virus responsible for Covid-19. Humans and other primates have a very similar genome, with gorillas having about 98% of their DNA in common. In Africa, chimpanzees and gorillas have been decimated by the Ebola virus.