• Question: Do you cure any of the baboons?

    Asked by ccole to Cassie on 20 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Cassandra Raby

      Cassandra Raby answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      This is a really good question… and I’d be interested in finding out what your thoughts are on this. Would you cure the diseases?

      So first let me tell you a bit about the diseases that I look at. Nearly all the baboons carry some of these parasites… and these parasites are either worms, or amoeba, that live inside the gut of the baboon. Usually they only cause a bit of a problem – but in times when there is drought or difficulty finding food then there’s a chance the diseases could kill them.
      The baboons pick up these diseases from the environment, so even if the troops were given medicine.. at some point it’s likely they will pick the diseases up again (I can assure you that baboons are not good at washing their hands!).

      So if I cured the diseases it might help them a little, but probably not a lot. But then it’s likely that they would pick the diseases up again.
      And it would also be messing with nature, and it would ruin my science project! But saying that, I am considering trying to cure some of the diseases as part of my research.

      Also – another I’d like to mention is a theory called the ‘hygiene hypothesis’. Humans in developed countries don’t really have many parasites… we have a habit of being clean and getting medicine to remove any worms inside us. But it is thought that because we do this we make our immune system get a little bit bored… there is nothing to fight! So when it gets bored it starts creating allergies and other problems!
      So maybe having a few parasites is a little bit good for you?!

      So I don’t give the baboons any medicine.
      But maybe there’s an arguement that when there is a drought I should give them some so that it helps them stay healthy… even though I wouldn’t find out much science about the diseases.