Studies of large free-ranging mammals incorporating physiological measurements typically require the collection of urine or faecal samples, due to ethical and practical concerns over trapping or darting animals. However, there is a dearth of validated biomarkers of immune activation and inflammation that can be measured non-invasively. We here evaluate the utility of urinary measurements of the soluble form of the urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR), for use as a health marker in studies of wild large mammals. We investigate how urinary suPAR concentrations change in response to viral infection and surgical trauma (inflammation), comparing it to the measurement of a marker of cellular immune activation, urinary neopterin (uNEO), in captive rhesus macaques. We then test the field utility of urinary suPAR, assessing the effects of soil and faecal contamination, sunlight, storage at different temperatures, freeze–thaw cycles, and lyophilization. We find that suPAR concentrations rise markedly in response to both infection and surgery-associated inflammation, unlike uNEO concentrations, which only rise in response to the former. Our field validation demonstrates that urinary suPAR is reasonably robust to many of the issues associated with field collection, sample processing, and storage, as long as samples can be stored in a freezer. Urinary suPAR is thus a promising biomarker applicable for monitoring various aspects of health in wild primates and potentially also other large mammals.
- Field studies
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