Press Trust of IndiaMay 12, 2020 11:00:47 AM
Scientists say they have found evidence in animals that it is important to keep physical distance to minimize the spread of certain microbes among individuals.
The study, published in the journal Animal behaviorobserved wild monkeys to understand the role genetics, diet, social groupings and distance play in a social network when it comes to the microbes in an animal̵
“Monkey social microbial transmission can tell us how diseases spread,” said Eva Wikberg, assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in the United States.
“This has parallels with our current situation in which we are trying to understand how social distancing during the COVID 19 pandemic and future outbreaks can affect disease transmission,” said Wikberg.
The gut microbiome refers to all microorganisms living in the digestive tract, starting with the stomach and ending with the large intestine.
The researchers found that the microbiome has become more of a scientific focus in the past decade, since it is believed that an unhealthy gut microbiome can lead to obesity, compromised immune function, weakened parasite resistance, and even behavioral changes.
They examined the faeces of 45 female colobus monkeys that gathered in eight different social groups in a small forest in the villages of Boabeng and Fiema in Ghana.
The scientists saw large differences between the gut microbiomes of social groups.
However, people from different groups who were more closely connected in the social network of the population had more similar gut microbiomes, the researchers said.
This discovery suggests that microbes can be transmitted from time to time with members of other social groups. A similar attitude could be when people in a store are a meter apart, they said.
Being in close proximity or accidentally targeting someone else could be all that is needed to transmit certain microbes, the researchers said.
They suggest that microbes be transmitted in this way to help Colobus monkeys digest the leaves in their food.
However, the team said that further research is needed to determine whether this type of transmission brings health benefits, which could explain why different social groups occasionally have friendly encounters between groups.
“Wildlife studies can teach us a lot about the importance of using interventions such as social distancing to ensure a safer community during this pandemic,” said Wikberg.
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