Filarial nematode infections are common in primates, but have received little attention in the Neotropics. Epidemiological data on filarial infections in primates are still too sparse to fully understand the complex of this parasitism, especially because of the difficulty in studying the ecology and epidemiology of wild primates. We describe natural infections by Dipetalonema parasitizing 211 primates belonging to eight free-living primate genera in Amazonia, and assess the relationships between parasitic indicators and climatic (rainfall and river level), ecological (fruiting periods of plants) and biological (sex, species’ body mass, group size and density) factors. The overall prevalence was 64.4% (95% CI: 64.0 – 64.9); parasitic mean abundance (N filariae per individual) and parasitic mean intensity (N filariae per infected host) of infection were 11.9 (95% CI: 8.3 – 15.6) and 18.4 (95% CI: 13.4 – 23.4) filariae/individual, respectively. Although we observed differences in parasitic parameters among primate genera, there was no correlation between parasitic parameters with density, body mass or group size. Sapajus, Cebus and Lagothrix had the highest prevalence and parasitic mean intensity. Using Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii, the most sampled species (n = 92), as a model, we found that the number of filariae per infected host was associated with fruit production in swamp forests during the dry season, the time of food scarcity. The long periods of food shortage may cause environmental stress on primates, impairing their immune defenses and leading to increased parasite load but not affecting infection prevalence. However, the lack of information on vector ecology, key to understand risk factors associated to infection rate, prevents confirming the existence of an infection pattern dependent on food availability.
- Neotropical primates