Novel intestinal Helicobacter species isolated from cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) with chronic colitis

Kim E. Saunders, Zeli Shen, Floyd E. Dewhirst, Bruce J. Paster, Charles A. Dangler, James G. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


A disease similar to ulcerative colitis in humans has been identified in cotton-top tamarins (CTFs) in captivity. The clinical signs include weight loss, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding with the pathological features and biochemical abnormalities of ulcerative colitis. Approximately 25 to 40% of these animals develop colon cancer after 2 to 5 years of captivity. An infectious etiology has been proposed; however, no microbial agent to date has been identified. Helicobacter spp. have been associated with enterocolitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in humans and animals. Infection with Helicobacter pylori or Helicobacter mustelae is associated with an increased risk of gastric adenocarcinoma and lymphoma of the mucosa- associated lymphoid tissue. Helicobacter hepaticus causes hepatitis, hepatic adenomas, and hepatocellular carcinomas in susceptible strains of mice. The aim of this study was to assess a colony of CTrs with a high incidence of IBD and~colon cancer for the presence of colonic Helicobacter spp. A fusiform, gram-negative bacterium with bipolar flagella and periplasmic fibers was isolated from the feces of CTTs. The bacterium grew under microaerobic conditions at 37 and 42°C but not at 25°C, did not hydrolyze urea, was positive for catalase and oxidase, did not reduce nitrate to nitrite, did not hydrolyze indoxyl acetate or alkaline phosphatase, and was resistant to nalidixic acid, cephalothin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. On the basis of 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, the organism was classified as a novel Helicobacter species. This is the first Helicobacter isolated from CTTs. Further studies are needed to elucidate the role of this novel Helicobacter sp. in the pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis and colonic adenocarcinoma in CTTs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-151
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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