Edes, A. N., Zimmerman, D., Jourdan, B. et al. 2022. Value ranges and clinical comparisons of serum DHEA-S, IL-6, and TNF-α in western lowland gorillas. Animals 12(19), 2705.

Physiological data can provide valuable information about the health and welfare of animals. Unfortunately, few validated assays and a lack of information on species-typical levels of circulating biomarkers for wildlife make the measurement, interpretation, and practical application of such data difficult. We validated commercially available kits and calculated reference intervals (herein called “value ranges”) for dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) in a sample of zoo-housed western lowland gorillas due to the roles these biomarkers play in stress and immune responses. For each biomarker, we present species-specific value ranges for a sample of gorillas in human care (n = 57). DHEA-S did not vary significantly by sex or age, while IL-6 was higher in males and older gorillas and TNF-α was higher in females but not associated with age. We also compared non-clinical with clinical samples (n = 21) to explore whether these biomarkers reflect changes in health status. There was no significant difference between clinical and non-clinical samples for DHEA-S, but both IL-6 and TNF-α were significantly higher in gorillas showing clinical symptoms or prior to death. Additional work is needed to improve our understanding of normal versus clinical variation in these biomarkers, and we encourage continued efforts to identify and validate additional biomarkers that can be used to inform assessments of health and welfare in wildlife.