Fatal ulcerative colitis in a western lowland gorilla (gorilla gorilla gorilla)

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Abstract

A captive western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) presented with watery diarrhoea that progressed to become profuse and haemorrhagic. Faecal analyses revealed Balantidium (B.) coli trophozoites and salmonella-like bacteria. Despite treatment the gorilla died on the 5th day after onset of symptoms. Post-mortem examination revealed a severe erosive-ulcerative superficial and deep colitis. Histological examination of post-mortem samples of the colon showed plentiful B. coli invading into the mucosa and submucosa, whilst PCR screening of bacterial DNA could not confirm any bacteria species which could be connected to the clinical picture. As B. coli is usually a non-pathogenic gut commensal, and as this animal previously showed evidence of non-symptomatic infection of B. coli, it is possible that the switch in pathogenicity was triggered by an acute bacterial infection. Despite successful treatment of the bacterial infection the secondary deep invasion of B. coli was not reversed, possibly because of the failure of the treatment regimen, and led to the death of the gorilla.

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