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San Diego Zoo Safari Park treats gorilla, Winston, with antibody therapy after troop contracts COVID-19

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Gorillas Recovering After SARS-CoV-2 Diagnosis
San Diego Zoo Safari Park Gorillas Recovering After SARS-CoV-2 Diagnosis
san diego zoo gorilla Troop_09_Web.jpg
Posted at 12:01 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 15:01:54-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — After several members of a gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for the coronavirus, the zoo says the troop's patriarch, Winston, has been treated with experimental monoclonal antibody therapy.

Winston, the park's silverback gorilla, was exhibiting a cough and lethargy, prompting caretakers to perform a diagnostic examination. The park says the gorilla had pneumonia and heart disease, which was treated with heart medications, antibiotics, and monoclonal antibody therapy.

"The monoclonal antibody therapy originated from a supply that was not permitted for human use. Treatment with these synthetic versions of the body’s natural defenses is thought to be effective in diminishing effects from the virus," the zoo said in a release.

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The monoclonal antibody therapy came from a supply not permitted for use in humans, according to the zoo, and officials say it may have helped Winston overcome the virus.

The experimental therapy was used on former President Donald Trump after he tested positive for the virus. Federal and state health officials say the therapy has shown promise in early-stage trials.

Several members of the gorilla troop tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. The troop was infected with the B.1.429 strain of the virus, which has been increasingly identified in California and could be more contagious than other forms of the virus, the zoo said.

RELATED: Gorilla troop at San Diego Zoo Safari Park tests positive for coronavirus

Officials believe that despite strict safety precautions, the troop became infected by an asymptomatic staff member. The zoo believes this is the first instance of coronavirus being transmitted from humans to apes.

Since then, the troop has remained under close observation, with some gorillas showing symptoms including mild coughing, congestion, nasal discharge, and periodic lethargy. Officials add that the eight-member troop is eating, drinking, and interacting well as they recover.

The zoo says it is also working to vaccinate animals after receiving a limited supply of a recombinant purified spike protein vaccine intended to protect animals from COVID-19. The vaccine doses came from a supply strictly intended for nonhuman use, the zoo added.