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Effect of Indoor Compared with Outdoor Location during Gestation on the Incidence of Diarrhea in Indoor-Reared Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta).


Behavior and health, including the incidence of chronic idiopathic diarrhea, can vary widely among NHP reared indoors. We hypothesized that factors during gestation account for some of the variability in chronic diarrhea risk that cannot be explained by postnatal environment, genes, or known physiologic deficits. We hypothesized that, among macaques reared indoors postnatally, outdoor housing during gestation (when the dam engaged with a large, species-typical social group) would be protective against diarrhea as compared with gestation experienced in an indoor setting. We also hypothesized that exposure to routine husbandry and veterinary care in utero would increase diarrhea rates in offspring. We built models to test the influence of specific events during pregnancy as well as their interactions with anxiety-related genotype as a way of understanding gene×environment interaction on the development of diarrhea in indoor-reared rhesus macaques. Although previous reports have suggested that rearing by the mother in an indoor environment is preferable to nursery rearing, we found that whether gestation occurred indoors (in single or pair housing) or outdoors (in a large social group) better explained the variability in diarrhea rate in our study population of indoor-reared macaques. Furthermore, the diarrhea incidence was associated with nervous temperament and serotonin transporter promoter genotype. Several significant interactions indicated that some of these effects were specific to subsets of animals. Our results demonstrate that the prenatal environment can have unexpected lasting health consequences.

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