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Overview of Nonhuman Primates


This overview presents a working knowledge of the common families of nonhuman primates maintained in captivity. More species than ever are now promulgated and maintained in captivity, and many are kept in private facilities. Prosimians such as Lemur catta (ring-tailed lemur) and New World monkeys such as Cebus albifrons (white-fronted capuchin) are commonly encountered in practice. The nonhuman primate species most widely used in research are the macaques, Macaca mulatta (rhesus monkey), M fascicularis (cynomolgus monkey), and M nemestrina (pig-tailed monkey); some African species, primarily Chlorocebus aethiops (African green monkey, vervet) and Papio spp (baboons); and some of South American origin, Saimiri sciureus (squirrel monkey) and Aotus trivirgatus (owl monkey). Saguinus spp (marmosets) and Callithrix spp (tamarins, marmosets), also of South American origin, have had more limited use in research but are common in the pet trade.

Increased restrictions on exportation or reduced availability of nonhuman primates from countries of origin have led to decreased importation. Importation of nonhuman primates into the USA is prohibited except for scientific, educational, and exhibition purposes.

Nonhuman primates are natural hosts for a variety of infectious agents, many of which are zoonoses, and are also susceptible to many human infectious diseases, such as measles and tuberculosis. Consequently, newly acquired nonhuman primates should be quarantined for 1–3 mo before research use or introduction into established colonies, to permit adequate evaluation of their health status and to allow adaptation to the laboratory environment. The basic principle of quarantine is to completely isolate each group of animals and not mix animals from different shipments or sources without restarting the quarantine period. Nonhuman primates imported into the USA must undergo a 31-day minimum primary import quarantine in a facility registered with the CDC. Imported animals that die or become severely ill and require euthanasia during this quarantine period must be necropsied and the deaths reported to the CDC, Division of Quarantine. In clinical practice, any new nonhuman primate should be tested for tuberculosis, and a routine fecal examination and trichrome stain should be done. Depending on the species, routine tests such as those for cytomegalovirus, herpes simiae, and herpes simplex (1, 2, etc) also can be run at this time. Many of the nonhuman primates seen in clinical practice are infants and are immunocompromised; they are highly susceptible to common cold and influenza viruses as well as streptococcal infections and should be isolated from people with upper respiratory signs.

For nonhuman primate therapeutics, Table: Nonhuman Primate TherapeuticsTables.

Table 1

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Last full review/revision August 2014 by Terri Parrott, DVM

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