Red colobus monkeys in a park in western Uganda have been exposed to an unknown orthopoxvirus, a pathogen related to the viruses that cause smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox. Most of the monkeys screened harbor antibodies to a virus that is similar – but not identical – to known orthopoxviruses.
The study was begun in 2006 when Colin Chapman, a researcher at McGill University, invited Goldberg to collaborate on a health assessment of two groups of red colobus monkeys in Kibale National Park, in western Uganda.
Chapman, also an associate scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, had spent two decades studying the behavior and ecology of the monkeys. He wanted to broaden the study to include an analysis of the pathogens they carried. Wildlife veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society helped collect the samples, and a team from Oregon Health and Science University, led by Mark Slifka, conducted immunological analyses to characterize the virus.