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Treated with antibodies, Covid gorilla ‘recovering’

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Winston, 48, was one of several gorillas among the San Diego Zoo Safari Park's troop who were confirmed positive for the virus. AFP

Treated with antibodies, Covid gorilla ‘recovering’

An elderly gorilla was recovering from a serious case of Covid-19 after he was treated with cutting-edge synthetic antibodies, the San Diego Zoo said on January 25.

Veterinarians are now identifying which animals to inject with the US zoo’s limited supply of vaccines.

Winston, 48, was one of several gorillas among the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s troop who were confirmed positive for the virus on January 11, based on faecal samples.

It was the first known case of natural transmission of the virus to great apes, and was suspected to have occurred because of contact with an asymptomatic staff member, despite the use of personal protective gear.

“The troop was infected with a new, highly contagious strain of the coronavirus, recently identified in California,” San Diego Zoo Global, the non-profit that operates the zoo and safari park, said in a statement.

Two research groups in California have identified a homegrown strain that they believe was driving the Golden State’s year-end surge in infections.

Because of his advanced age, his symptoms and concern about underlying conditions, Winston was examined under anaesthesia.

Veterinarians confirmed the silverback had pneumonia and heart disease, and initiated a treatment that included heart medication, antibiotics, and monoclonal antibody therapy.

Monoclonal antibodies are a lab-made version of the body’s natural infection-fighting proteins, and they are delivered by intravenous infusion.

Covid-19 monoclonal antibodies have been approved for emergency use in the US, and were notably used to treat former president Donald Trump.

But Winston’s treatment came from a supply not permitted for human use, the statement said.

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