Infectious disease has only recently been recognized as a major threat to the survival of Endangered chimpanzees and Critically Endangered gorillas in the wild. One potentially powerful tool, vaccination, has not been deployed in fighting this disease threat, in good part because of fears about vaccine safety. Here we report on what is, to our knowledge, the first trial in which captive chimpanzees were used to test a vaccine intended for use on wild apes rather than humans. We tested a virus-like particle vaccine against Ebola virus, a leading source of death in wild gorillas and chimpanzees. The vaccine was safe and immunogenic. Captive trials of other vaccines and of methods for vaccine delivery hold great potential as weapons in the fight against wild ape extinction.
Keywords: conservation; filovirus; wildlife disease.