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Concept: Democratic Republic of the Congo


In June 2007, a previously undescribed monkey known locally as “lesula” was found in the forests of the middle Lomami Basin in central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We describe this new species as Cercopithecus lomamiensis sp. nov., and provide data on its distribution, morphology, genetics, ecology and behavior. C. lomamiensis is restricted to the lowland rain forests of central DRC between the middle Lomami and the upper Tshuapa Rivers. Morphological and molecular data confirm that C. lomamiensis is distinct from its nearest congener, C. hamlyni, from which it is separated geographically by both the Congo (Lualaba) and the Lomami Rivers. C. lomamiensis, like C. hamlyni, is semi-terrestrial with a diet containing terrestrial herbaceous vegetation. The discovery of C. lomamiensis highlights the biogeographic significance and importance for conservation of central Congo’s interfluvial TL2 region, defined from the upper Tshuapa River through the Lomami Basin to the Congo (Lualaba) River. The TL2 region has been found to contain a high diversity of anthropoid primates including three forms, in addition to C. lomamiensis, that are endemic to the area. We recommend the common name, lesula, for this new species, as it is the vernacular name used over most of its known range.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Primate, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, Rainforest, Central Africa, Congo River


Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), the World’s largest primate, is confined to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is threatened by civil war and insecurity. During the war, armed groups in mining camps relied on hunting bushmeat, including gorillas. Insecurity and the presence of several militia groups across Grauer’s gorilla’s range made it very difficult to assess their population size. Here we use a novel method that enables rigorous assessment of local community and ranger-collected data on gorilla occupancy to evaluate the impacts of civil war on Grauer’s gorilla, which prior to the war was estimated to number 16,900 individuals. We show that gorilla numbers in their stronghold of Kahuzi-Biega National Park have declined by 87%. Encounter rate data of gorilla nests at 10 sites across its range indicate declines of 82-100% at six of these sites. Spatial occupancy analysis identifies three key areas as the most critical sites for the remaining populations of this ape and that the range of this taxon is around 19,700 km2. We estimate that only 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas remain in the wild, a 77% decline in one generation, justifying its elevation to Critically Endangered status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Concepts: Endangered species, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hominidae, Gorilla, Mountain Gorilla, Eastern Gorilla, IUCN Red List, Eastern Lowland Gorilla


HIV-1, the cause of AIDS, is composed of four phylogenetic lineages, groups M, N, O, and P, each of which resulted from an independent cross-species transmission event of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) infecting African apes. Although groups M and N have been traced to geographically distinct chimpanzee communities in southern Cameroon, the reservoirs of groups O and P remain unknown. Here, we screened fecal samples from western lowland (n = 2,611), eastern lowland (n = 103), and mountain (n = 218) gorillas for gorilla SIV (SIVgor) antibodies and nucleic acids. Despite testing wild troops throughout southern Cameroon (n = 14), northern Gabon (n = 16), the Democratic Republic of Congo (n = 2), and Uganda (n = 1), SIVgor was identified at only four sites in southern Cameroon, with prevalences ranging from 0.8-22%. Amplification of partial and full-length SIVgor sequences revealed extensive genetic diversity, but all SIVgor strains were derived from a single lineage within the chimpanzee SIV (SIVcpz) radiation. Two fully sequenced gorilla viruses from southwestern Cameroon were very closely related to, and likely represent the source population of, HIV-1 group P. Most of the genome of a third SIVgor strain, from central Cameroon, was very closely related to HIV-1 group O, again pointing to gorillas as the immediate source. Functional analyses identified the cytidine deaminase APOBEC3G as a barrier for chimpanzee-to-gorilla, but not gorilla-to-human, virus transmission. These data indicate that HIV-1 group O, which spreads epidemically in west central Africa and is estimated to have infected around 100,000 people, originated by cross-species transmission from western lowland gorillas.

Concepts: Virus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gorilla, Ape, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Simian immunodeficiency virus, Western Lowland Gorilla


Sleeping sickness, also called human African trypanosomiasis, is transmitted by the tsetse, a blood-sucking fly confined to sub-Saharan Africa. The form of the disease in West and Central Africa is carried mainly by species of tsetse that inhabit riverine woodland and feed avidly on humans. In contrast, the vectors for the East and Southern African form of the disease are usually savannah species that feed mostly on wild and domestic animals and bite humans infrequently, mainly because the odours produced by humans can be repellent. Hence, it takes a long time to catch many savannah tsetse from people, which in turn means that studies of the nature of contact between savannah tsetse and humans, and the ways of minimizing it, have been largely neglected.

Concepts: Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, African trypanosomiasis, Southern Africa, Subregion, Tsetse fly, Sleeping sickness


Understanding the spatial clustering of Plasmodium falciparum populations can assist efforts to contain drug-resistant parasites and maintain the efficacy of future drugs. We sequenced single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the dihydropteroate synthase gene (dhps) associated with sulfadoxine resistance and 5 microsatellite loci flanking dhps in order to investigate the genetic backgrounds, genetic relatedness, and geographic clustering of falciparum parasites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Resistant haplotypes were clustered into subpopulations: one in the northeast DRC, and the other in the balance of the DRC. Network and clonal lineage analyses of the flanking microsatellites indicate that geographically-distinct mutant dhps haplotypes derive from separate lineages. The DRC is therefore a watershed for haplotypes associated with sulfadoxine resistance. Given the importance of central Africa as a corridor for the spread of antimalarial resistance, the identification of the mechanisms of this transit can inform future policies to contain drug-resistant parasite strains.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, Population genetics, Central African Republic, Central Africa


To understand how the gut microbiome is impacted by human adaptation to varying environments, we explored gut bacterial communities in the BaAka rainforest hunter-gatherers and their agriculturalist Bantu neighbors in the Central African Republic. Although the microbiome of both groups is compositionally similar, hunter-gatherers harbor increased abundance of Prevotellaceae, Treponema, and Clostridiaceae, while the Bantu gut microbiome is dominated by Firmicutes. Comparisons with US Americans reveal microbiome differences between Africans and westerners but show western-like features in the Bantu, including an increased abundance of predictive carbohydrate and xenobiotic metabolic pathways. In contrast, the hunter-gatherer gut shows increased abundance of predicted virulence, amino acid, and vitamin metabolism functions, as well as dominance of lipid and amino-acid-derived metabolites, as determined through metabolomics. Our results demonstrate gradients of traditional subsistence patterns in two neighboring African groups and highlight the adaptability of the microbiome in response to host ecology.

Concepts: Bacteria, Amino acid, Metabolism, Nutrition, Biochemistry, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon


In March 2014, the World Health Organization was notified of an outbreak of a communicable disease characterized by fever, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and a high fatality rate in Guinea. Virologic investigation identified Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) as the causative agent. Full-length genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis showed that EBOV from Guinea forms a separate clade in relationship to the known EBOV strains from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. Epidemiologic investigation linked the laboratory-confirmed cases with the presumed first fatality of the outbreak in December 2013. This study demonstrates the emergence of a new EBOV strain in Guinea.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Microbiology, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ebola, Marburg virus, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Incubation period, Crab-eating Macaque


Whenever epidemics of cholera occur, the global public health community is energized. Experts meet, guidelines for control are reviewed and reissued, and new and modified interventions are proposed and promoted. In the past two decades, these things happened after cholera appeared in Latin America in 1991, in the wake of the Rwandan genocide and the ensuing refugee crisis in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1994, in Zimbabwe in 2008, and in October 2010, at the onset of the ongoing epidemic in Haiti (see article by Barzilay et al.). But even when it is not covered in the news . . .

Concepts: Epidemiology, United States, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, United Nations, Rwanda, Rwandan Genocide, First Congo War


We use data on game harvest from 60 Pygmy and non-Pygmy settlements in the Congo Basin forests to examine whether hunting patterns and prey profiles differ between the two hunter groups. For each group, we calculate hunted animal numbers and biomass available per inhabitant, P, per year (harvest rates) and killed per hunter, H, per year (extraction rates). We assess the impact of hunting of both hunter groups from estimates of numbers and biomass of prey species killed per square kilometre, and by examining the proportion of hunted taxa of low, medium and high population growth rates as a measure of their vulnerability to overhunting. We then map harvested biomass (kg-1P-1Yr-1) of bushmeat by Pygmies and non-Pygmies throughout the Congo Basin. Hunting patterns differ between Pygmies and non-Pygmies; Pygmies take larger and different prey and non-Pygmies sell more for profit. We show that non-Pygmies have a potentially more severe impact on prey populations than Pygmies. This is because non-Pygmies hunt a wider range of species, and twice as many animals are taken per square kilometre. Moreover, in non-Pygmy settlements there was a larger proportion of game taken of low population growth rate. Our harvest map shows that the non-Pygmy population may be responsible for 27 times more animals harvested than the Pygmy population. Such differences indicate that the intense competition that may arise from the more widespread commercial hunting by non-Pygmies is a far more important constraint and source of conflict than are protected areas.

Concepts: Population, Population ecology, Predation, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hunting, Game, Population growth, Bushmeat


Thirty years after the discovery of HIV-1, the early transmission, dissemination, and establishment of the virus in human populations remain unclear. Using statistical approaches applied to HIV-1 sequence data from central Africa, we show that from the 1920s Kinshasa (in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo) was the focus of early transmission and the source of pre-1960 pandemic viruses elsewhere. Location and dating estimates were validated using the earliest HIV-1 archival sample, also from Kinshasa. The epidemic histories of HIV-1 group M and nonpandemic group O were similar until ~1960, after which group M underwent an epidemiological transition and outpaced regional population growth. Our results reconstruct the early dynamics of HIV-1 and emphasize the role of social changes and transport networks in the establishment of this virus in human populations.

Concepts: AIDS, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Africa, Demography, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, World population