Edes, A. N., Brand, C. M. 2021. Age, sex, and inflammatory markers predict chronic conditions, cardiac disease, and mortality among captive western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Primates 62(6), 931-943.
In humans, inflammatory markers predict health risks. As great apes experience many similar conditions, measuring inflammation may provide valuable health information. We examined four serum inflammatory markers in zoo-housed gorillas (n = 48): albumin, CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α. We first analyzed age- and sex-associated patterns, then used multimodel inference to evaluate models with age, sex, and inflammatory markers as predictors of all-cause morbidity, cardiac disease, and mortality. Older gorillas had lower albumin and higher IL-6, and males had higher albumin, lower CRP, and lower TNF-α. All-cause morbidity was best predicted by age, sex, and TNF-α, but the second model containing only age and sex was equivalent. Cardiac disease was best predicted by TNF-α alongside age and sex, with lower levels associated with increased risk. When outliers were removed, the model with TNF-α was second to the model containing only age and sex. Finally, mortality risk was best predicted by the model with only age and sex. Other models containing individual inflammatory markers were within top model sets for each health outcome. Our results indicate that age and sex are robust for predicting all-cause morbidity and mortality risk in gorillas; while models which include individual inflammatory markers also predict risk, they may not improve predictions over age and sex alone. However, given the prevalence of cardiac disease in great apes, these results suggest that TNF-α warrants further investigation. With their potential to provide valuable health information, data on inflammatory markers may contribute to the care and management of gorillas in human care.