The straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, is Africa’s most widely distributed and commonly hunted fruit bat, often living in close proximity to human populations. This species has been identified as a reservoir of potentially zoonotic viruses, but uncertainties remain regarding viral transmission dynamics and mechanisms of persistence. Here we combine genetic and serological analyses of populations across Africa, to determine the extent of epidemiological connectivity among E. helvum populations. Multiple markers reveal panmixia across the continental range, at a greater geographical scale than previously recorded for any other mammal, whereas populations on remote islands were genetically distinct. Multiple serological assays reveal antibodies to henipaviruses and Lagos bat virus in all locations, including small isolated island populations, indicating that factors other than population size and connectivity may be responsible for viral persistence. Our findings have potentially important public health implications, and highlight a need to avoid disturbances which may precipitate viral spillover.
In 2009, a novel lyssavirus (subsequently named Ikoma lyssavirus, IKOV) was detected in the brain of an African civet (Civettictis civetta) with clinical rabies in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The degree of nucleotide divergence between the genome of IKOV and those of other lyssaviruses predicted antigenic distinction from, and lack of protection provided by, available rabies vaccines. In addition, the index case was considered likely to be an incidental spillover event, and therefore the true reservoir of IKOV remained to be identified. The advent of sensitive molecular techniques has led to a rapid increase in the discovery of novel viruses. Detecting viral sequence alone, however, only allows for prediction of phenotypic characteristics and not their measurement. In the present study we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterization of IKOV, demonstrating that it is (1) pathogenic by peripheral inoculation in an animal model, (2) antigenically distinct from current rabies vaccine strains and (3) poorly neutralized by sera from humans and animals immunized against rabies. In a laboratory mouse model, no protection was elicited by a licensed rabies vaccine. We also investigated the role of bats as reservoirs of IKOV. We found no evidence for infection among 483 individuals of at least 13 bat species sampled across sites in the Serengeti and Southern Kenya.
High metabolism and body temperatures of flying bats might enable them to host many viruses.
Bats are sources of high viral diversity and high-profile zoonotic viruses worldwide. Although apparently not pathogenic in their reservoir hosts, some viruses from bats severely affect other mammals, including humans. Examples include severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses, Ebola and Marburg viruses, and Nipah and Hendra viruses. Factors underlying high viral diversity in bats are the subject of speculation. We hypothesize that flight, a factor common to all bats but to no other mammals, provides an intensive selective force for coexistence with viral parasites through a daily cycle that elevates metabolism and body temperature analogous to the febrile response in other mammals. On an evolutionary scale, this host–virus interaction might have resulted in the large diversity of zoonotic viruses in bats, possibly through bat viruses adapting to be more tolerant of the fever response and less virulent to their natural hosts.
bats; body temperature; Chiroptera; emerging zoonotic viruses; fever; flight; metabolic rate; mammals
Bats are the natural reservoirs of a number of high-impact viral zoonoses. We present a quantitative analysis to address the hypothesis that bats are unique in their propensity to host zoonotic viruses based on a comparison with rodents, another important host order. We found that bats indeed host more zoonotic viruses per species than rodents, and we identified life-history and ecological factors that promote zoonotic viral richness. More zoonotic viruses are hosted by species whose distributions overlap with a greater number of other species in the same taxonomic order (sympatry). Specifically in bats, there was evidence for increased zoonotic viral richness in species with smaller litters (one young), greater longevity and more litters per year. Furthermore, our results point to a new hypothesis to explain in part why bats host more zoonotic viruses per species: the stronger effect of sympatry in bats and more viruses shared between bat species suggests that interspecific transmission is more prevalent among bats than among rodents. Although bats host more zoonotic viruses per species, the total number of zoonotic viruses identified in bats (61) was lower than in rodents (68), a result of there being approximately twice the number of rodent species as bat species. Therefore, rodents should still be a serious concern as reservoirs of emerging viruses. These findings shed light on disease emergence and perpetuation mechanisms and may help lead to a predictive framework for identifying future emerging infectious virus reservoirs.
trait-based approaches; zoonoses; viral richness; reservoir host; spillover; Chiroptera
Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) currently comprises administration of rabies vaccine together with rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) of either equine or human origin. In the developing world, RIG preparations are expensive, often in short supply, and of variable efficacy. Therefore, we are seeking to develop a monoclonal antibody cocktail to replace RIG. Here, we describe the cloning, engineering and production in plants of a candidate monoclonal antibody (E559) for inclusion in such a cocktail. The murine constant domains of E559 were replaced with human IgG1κ constant domains and the resulting chimeric mouse-human genes were cloned into plant expression vectors for stable nuclear transformation of Nicotiana tabacum. The plant-expressed, chimeric antibody was purified and biochemically characterized, was demonstrated to neutralize rabies virus in a fluorescent antibody virus neutralization assay, and conferred protection in a hamster challenge model.
rabies; post-exposure prophylaxis; RIG; monoclonal antibody; Nicotiana tabacum
Mokola virus (MOKV) appears to be exclusive to Africa. Although the first isolates were from Nigeria and other Congo basin countries, all reports over the past 20 years have been from southern Africa. Previous phylogenetic studies analyzed few isolates or used partial gene sequence for analysis since limited sequence information is available for MOKV and the isolates were distributed among various laboratories. The complete nucleoprotein, phosphoprotein, matrix and glycoprotein genes of 18 MOKV isolates in various laboratories were sequenced either using partial or full genome sequencing using pyrosequencing and a phylogenetic analysis was undertaken. The results indicated that MOKV isolates from the Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic and Nigeria clustered according to geographic origin irrespective of the genes used for phylogenetic analysis, similar to that observed with Lagos bat virus. A Bayesian Markov-Chain-Monte-Carlo- (MCMC) analysis revealed the age of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of MOKV to be between 279 and 2034 years depending on the genes used. Generally, all MOKV isolates showed a similar pattern at the amino acid sites considered influential for viral properties.
According to the World Health Organization, rabies is considered both a neglected zoonotic and tropical disease. Among all the lyssavirus species known to exist today, Mokola virus is unique and appears to be exclusive to Africa. In contrast to all other known virus species in the genus Lyssavirus of the family Rhabdoviridae, its reservoir host has not been identified yet. As only limited sequence information is available, this study significantly contributes to the understanding of the genetic diversity and relatedness of Mokola viruses. In a collective approach, the complete nucleoprotein, phosphoprotein, matrix, and glycoprotein genes of all Mokola viruses isolated to date were sequenced in various rabies laboratories across the world. A phylogenetic analysis was undertaken and the most recent common ancestor was determined. Subsequently, results were linked to epidemiological background data. We also conducted a comparative study of distinct antigenic sites considered influential for viral properties within those genes.
Louping ill virus (LIV) is a zoonotic virus causing fatal encephalitis in young sheep and grouse. We have recovered the complete genome sequence from a spinal cord sample prepared from a lamb that was naturally infected with LIV. This is only the second LIV genome sequence reported and the first prepared from a clinical sample.
All orthobunyaviruses possess three genome segments of single-stranded negative sense RNA that are encapsidated with the virus-encoded nucleocapsid (N) protein to form a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex, which is uncharacterized at high resolution. We report the crystal structure of both the Bunyamwera virus (BUNV) N–RNA complex and the unbound Schmallenberg virus (SBV) N protein, at resolutions of 3.20 and 2.75 Å, respectively. Both N proteins crystallized as ring-like tetramers and exhibit a high degree of structural similarity despite classification into different orthobunyavirus serogroups. The structures represent a new RNA-binding protein fold. BUNV N possesses a positively charged groove into which RNA is deeply sequestered, with the bases facing away from the solvent. This location is highly inaccessible, implying that RNA polymerization and other critical base pairing events in the virus life cycle require RNP disassembly. Mutational analysis of N protein supports a correlation between structure and function. Comparison between these crystal structures and electron microscopy images of both soluble tetramers and authentic RNPs suggests the N protein does not bind RNA as a repeating monomer; thus, it represents a newly described architecture for bunyavirus RNP assembly, with implications for many other segmented negative-strand RNA viruses.
The number of West Nile virus (WNV)–infected mosquitoes aboard aircraft from the United States that arrive in the United Kingdom each summer was determined using a quantitative risk assessment. In the worst-case scenario, when WNV levels in mosquitoes are high (at epidemic levels) the probability of at least one WNV-infected mosquito being introduced into the United Kingdom was predicted to be 0.99. During these periods, a mean of 5.2 infected mosquitoes were estimated to be aboard flights from the United States to the United Kingdom during May to October, with 90% certainty that the exact value lies between one and ten mosquitoes. Heathrow airport was predicted to receive the majority of the infected mosquitoes (72.1%). Spatial analysis revealed the region surrounding Heathrow satisfies the criteria for potential WNV exposure as both WNV-competent mosquitoes and susceptible wild bird species are present. This region is, therefore, recommended for targeted, risk-based surveillance of WNV-infected mosquitoes in addition to an increased awareness of the risks to horses, birds and humans.
Arbovirus(es); GIS; Mosquito(es); Risk analysis; West Nile virus
hantavirus; Tatenale; field vole; United Kingdom; viruses; wildlife
Eidolon helvum is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa where it forms large, dense colonies. The species is migratory and satellite telemetry studies have demonstrated that individuals can migrate over 2,500 km. It is a common source of bush meat in West Africa and evidence of infection with potentially zoonotic viruses has been found in West African colonies. The species, therefore, is of interest to both ecologists and those interested in public health. Despite this, demographic parameters of the species are unknown. We focused our study primarily on a colony of up to 1,000,000 bats that roost in trees in Accra, Ghana to obtain estimates of birth rate and survival probability. Aging of bats by examination of tooth cementum annuli allowed use of life tables to indicate an annual survival probability for juveniles of 0.43 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.16–0.77) and for adults of 0.83 (95% CI 0.73–0.93). Additionally, an annual adult survival probability of 0.63 (95% CI 0.27–0.88) was estimated by following 98 radiocollared bats over a year; capture–recapture data were analyzed using multistate models to address the confounding factor of emigration. True survival probabilities may be in between the 2 estimates, because permanent emigration may lead to underestimation in the capture–recapture study, and population decline may lead to overestimation in the life table analysis. Birth rates (0.96 young per female per year, 95% CI 0.92–0.98) and colony size changes were also estimated. Estimation of these key parameters will allow future analyses of both infection dynamics within, and harvest sustainability of, E. helvum populations.
capture–recapture; Eidolon helvum; multistate model; population dynamics; survival; tooth cementum
Lyssaviruses (family Rhabdoviridae) constitute one of the most important groups of viral zoonoses globally. All lyssaviruses cause the disease rabies, an acute progressive encephalitis for which, once symptoms occur, there is no effective cure. Currently available vaccines are highly protective against the predominantly circulating lyssavirus species. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, we have obtained the whole-genome sequence for a novel lyssavirus, Ikoma lyssavirus (IKOV), isolated from an African civet in Tanzania displaying clinical signs of rabies. Genetically, this virus is the most divergent within the genus Lyssavirus. Characterization of the genome will help to improve our understanding of lyssavirus diversity and enable investigation into vaccine-induced immunity and protection.
European bat lyssaviruses type 1 (EBLV-1) and type 2 (EBLV-2) circulate within bat populations throughout Europe and are capable of causing disease indistinguishable from that caused by classical rabies virus (RABV). However, the determinants of viral fitness and pathogenicity are poorly understood. Full-length genome clones based on the highly attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, RABV vaccine strain (SAD-B19) were constructed with the glycoprotein (G) of either SAD-B19 (SN), of EBLV-1 (SN-1) or EBLV-2 (SN-2). In vitro characterization of SN-1 and SN-2 in comparison to wild-type EBLVs demonstrated that the substitution of G affected the final virus titre and antigenicity. In vivo, following peripheral infection with a high viral dose (104 f.f.u.), animals infected with SN-1 had reduced survivorship relative to infection with SN, resulting in survivorship similar to animals infected with EBLV-1. The histopathological changes and antigen distribution observed for SN-1 were more representative of those observed with SN than with EBLV-1. EBLV-2 was unable to achieve a titre equivalent to that of the other viruses. Therefore, a reduced-dose experiment (103 f.f.u.) was undertaken in vivo to compare EBLV-2 and SN-2, which resulted in 100 % survivorship for all recombinant viruses (SN, SN-1 and SN-2) while clinical disease developed in mice infected with the EBLVs. These data indicate that interspecies replacement of G has an effect on virus titre in vitro, probably as a result of suboptimal G–matrix protein interactions, and influences the survival outcome following a peripheral challenge with a high virus titre in mice.
Many serious emerging zoonotic infections have recently arisen from bats, including Ebola, Marburg, SARS-coronavirus, Hendra, Nipah, and a number of rabies and rabies-related viruses, consistent with the overall observation that wildlife are an important source of emerging zoonoses for the human population. Mechanisms underlying the recognized association between ecosystem health and human health remain poorly understood and responding appropriately to the ecological, social and economic conditions that facilitate disease emergence and transmission represents a substantial societal challenge. In the context of disease emergence from wildlife, wildlife and habitat should be conserved, which in turn will preserve vital ecosystem structure and function, which has broader implications for human wellbeing and environmental sustainability, while simultaneously minimizing the spillover of pathogens from wild animals into human beings. In this review, we propose a novel framework for the holistic and interdisciplinary investigation of zoonotic disease emergence and its drivers, using the spillover of bat pathogens as a case study. This study has been developed to gain a detailed interdisciplinary understanding, and it combines cutting-edge perspectives from both natural and social sciences, linked to policy impacts on public health, land use and conservation.
bat; zoonosis; emergence; collaborative framework
Evidence in support of a novel lyssavirus was obtained from brain samples of an African civet in Tanzania. Results of phylogenetic analysis of nucleoprotein gene sequences from representative Lyssavirus species and this novel lyssavirus provided strong empirical evidence that this is a new lyssavirus species, designated Ikoma lyssavirus.
Tanzania; African civet; rabies virus; West Caucasian bat virus; rabies virus; viruses; Lyssavirus; lyssaviruses; Ikoma lyssavirus; novel rabies virus; novel lyssavirus
The genus Henipavirus includes Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV), for which fruit bats (particularly those of the genus Pteropus) are considered to be the wildlife reservoir. The recognition of henipaviruses occurring across a wider geographic and host range suggests the possibility of the virus entering the United Kingdom (UK). To estimate the likelihood of henipaviruses entering the UK, a qualitative release assessment was undertaken. To facilitate the release assessment, the world was divided into four zones according to location of outbreaks of henipaviruses, isolation of henipaviruses, proximity to other countries where incidents of henipaviruses have occurred and the distribution of Pteropus spp. fruit bats. From this release assessment, the key findings are that the importation of fruit from Zone 1 and 2 and bat bushmeat from Zone 1 each have a Low annual probability of release of henipaviruses into the UK. Similarly, the importation of bat meat from Zone 2, horses and companion animals from Zone 1 and people travelling from Zone 1 and entering the UK was estimated to pose a Very Low probability of release. The annual probability of release for all other release routes was assessed to be Negligible. It is recommended that the release assessment be periodically re-assessed to reflect changes in knowledge and circumstances over time.
Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) have been responsible for some of the most explosive epidemics of emerging infectious diseases over the past decade. Their impact on both human and livestock populations has been dramatic. The early detection either through surveillance or diagnosis of virus will be a critical feature in responding and resolving the emergence of such epidemics in the future. Although some of the most important emerging arboviruses are human pathogens, this paper aims to highlight those diseases that primarily affect livestock, although many are zoonotic and some occasionally cause human mortality. This paper also highlights the molecular detection methods specific to each virus and identifies those emerging diseases for which a rapid detection methods are not yet developed.
Dengue viruses (DENV) cause countless human deaths each year, whilst West Nile virus (WNV) has re-emerged as an important human pathogen. There are currently no WNV or DENV vaccines licensed for human use, yet vaccines exist against other flaviviruses. To investigate flavivirus cross-reactivity, sera from a human cohort with a history of vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and yellow fever virus (YFV) were tested for antibodies by plaque reduction neutralization test. Neutralization of louping ill virus (LIV) occurred, but no significant neutralization of Murray Valley encephalitis virus was observed. Sera from some individuals vaccinated against TBEV and JEV neutralized WNV, which was enhanced by YFV vaccination in some recipients. Similarly, some individuals neutralized DENV-2, but this was not significantly influenced by YFV vaccination. Antigenic cartography techniques were used to generate a geometric illustration of the neutralization titres of selected sera against WNV, TBEV, JEV, LIV, YFV and DENV-2. This demonstrated the individual variation in antibody responses. Most sera had detectable titres against LIV and some had titres against WNV and DENV-2. Generally, LIV titres were similar to titres against TBEV, confirming the close antigenic relationship between TBEV and LIV. JEV was also antigenically closer to TBEV than WNV, using these sera. The use of sera from individuals vaccinated against multiple pathogens is unique relative to previous applications of antigenic cartography techniques. It is evident from these data that notable differences exist between amino acid sequence identity and mapped antigenic relationships within the family Flaviviridae.
► Universal real-time PCR primer pair demonstrated to hybridize to and detect each of the known Lyssaviruses (including Rabies virus) with greater sensitivity than a standard pan-Lyssavirus hemi-nested RT-PCR typically used. ► Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis (Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus) were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides and the synthetic DNA was used as a target for primer hybridization.
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout most of the world. It is now widely accepted that RABV had its origins in bats. Ten of the 11 Lyssavirus species recognised, including RABV, have been isolated from bats. There is, however, a lack of understanding regarding both the ecology and host reservoirs of Lyssaviruses. A real-time PCR assay for the detection of all Lyssaviruses using universal primers would be beneficial for Lyssavirus surveillance. It was shown that using SYBR® Green, a universal real-time PCR primer pair previously demonstrated to detect European bat Lyssaviruses 1 and 2, and RABV, was able to detect reverse transcribed RNA for each of the seven virus species available to us. Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides. Lagos Bat-, Duvenhage- and Mokola virus full nucleoprotein gene clones enabled a limit of 5–50 plasmid copies to be detected. Five copies of each of the synthetic DNA oligonucleotides of Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus were detected. The single universal primer pair was therefore able to detect each of the most divergent known Lyssaviruses with great sensitivity.
Lyssavirus; Rabies; Bat; SYBR Green; Real-time PCR; Synthetic DNA
Different approaches have been applied to develop highly attenuated rabies virus vaccines for oral vaccination of mesocarnivores. One prototype vaccine construct is SAD dIND1, which contains a deletion in the P-gene severely limiting the inhibition of type-1 interferon induction. Immunogenicity studies in foxes and skunks were undertaken to investigate whether this highly attenuated vaccine would be more immunogenic than the parental SAD B19 vaccine strain. In foxes, it was demonstrated that SAD dIND1 protected the animals against a rabies infection after a single oral dose, although virus neutralizing antibody titres were lower than in foxes orally vaccinated with the SAD B19 virus as observed in previous experiments. In contrast, skunks receiving 107.5 FFU SAD dIND1 did not develop virus neutralizing antibodies and were not protected against a subsequent rabies infection.
Canine rabies, responsible for most human rabies deaths, is a serious global public health concern. This zoonosis is entirely preventable, but by focusing solely upon rabies prevention in humans, this “incurable wound” persists at high costs. Although preventing human deaths through canine rabies elimination is feasible, dog rabies control is often neglected, because dogs are not considered typical economic commodities by the animal health sector. Here, we demonstrate that the responsibility of managing rabies falls upon multiple sectors, that a truly integrated approach is the key to rabies elimination, and that considerable progress has been made to this effect. Achievements include the construction of global rabies networks and organizational partnerships; development of road maps, operational toolkits, and a blueprint for rabies prevention and control; and opportunities for scaling up and replication of successful programs. Progress must continue towards overcoming the remaining challenges preventing the ultimate goal of rabies elimination.
Intradermal rabies vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organisation, but not all countries, including England, follow this recommendation. A group of 12 adults in England previously given pre-exposure intradermal rabies vaccine were considered to be non-immune to rabies because their rabies antibody titres were known to be less than 0.5 IU/mL. A cohort study examined the immunizing effect of increasing the participants'
cumulative dose of intradermal rabies to 2.0 IU. All patients subsequently demonstrated rabies antibody levels >0.5 IU·mL supporting evidence of adequate sero-conversion. No adverse effects of intradermal rabies vaccine boosting were noted. Within the limits of a small study the findings support the hypothesis that adequate levels of rabies antibody can be achieved by a schedule of intradermal injections delivered on at least three occasions with a cumulative rabies vaccine dose of 2.0 IU.
Viruses; rabies; zoonoses; European Union; Switzerland; letter
Porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) poses a potential risk of zoonotic infection in xenotransplantation. Preclinical transplantation trials using non-human primates (NHP) as recipients of porcine xenografts present the opportunity to assess the zoonosis risk in vivo. However, PERV poorly infects NHP cells for unclear reasons and therefore NHP may represent a suboptimal animal model to assess the risk of PERV zoonoses. We investigated the mechanism responsible for the low efficiency of PERV-A infection in NHP cells.
Two steps, cell entry and exit, were inefficient for the replication of high-titer, human-tropic A/C recombinant PERV. A restriction factor, tetherin, is likely to be responsible for the block to matured virion release, supported by the correlation between the levels of inhibition and tetherin expression. In rhesus macaque, cynomolgus macaque and baboon the main receptor for PERV entry, PERV-A receptor 1 (PAR-1), was found to be genetically deficient: PAR-1 genes in these species encode serine at amino acid 109 in place of the leucine in human PAR-1. This genetic defect inevitably impacts in vivo sensitivity to PERV infection of these species. In contrast, African green monkey (AGM) PAR-1 is functional, but PERV infection is still poor. Although the mechanism is unclear, tunicamycin treatment, which removes N-glycosylated sugar chains, increases PERV infection, suggesting a possible role for the glycosylation of the receptors.
Since cynomolgus macaque and baboon, species often used in pig-to-NHP xenotransplantation experiments, have a defective PAR-1, they hardly represent an ideal animal model to assess the risk of PERV transmission in xenotransplantation. Alternatively, NHP species, like AGM, whose both PARs are functional may represent a better model than baboon and cynomolgus macaque for PERV zoonosis in vivo studies.
Wild mallards (Anas platyrhychos) are considered one of the primary reservoir species for avian influenza viruses (AIV). Because AIV circulating in wild birds pose an indirect threat to agriculture and human health, understanding the ecology of AIV and developing risk assessments and surveillance systems for prevention of disease is critical.
In this study, mallards were experimentally infected with an H4N6 subtype of AIV by oral inoculation or contact with an H4N6 contaminated water source. Cloacal swabs, oropharyngeal swabs, fecal samples, and water samples were collected daily and tested by real-time RT-PCR (RRT-PCR) for estimation of viral shedding. Fecal samples had significantly higher virus concentrations than oropharyngeal or cloacal swabs and 6 month old ducks shed significantly more viral RNA than 3 month old ducks regardless of sample type. Use of a water source contaminated by AIV infected mallards, was sufficient to transmit virus to naïve mallards, which shed AIV at higher or similar levels as orally-inoculated ducks.
Bodies of water could serve as a transmission pathway for AIV in waterfowl. For AIV surveillance purposes, water samples and fecal samples appear to be excellent alternatives or additions to cloacal and oropharyngeal swabbing. Furthermore, duck age (even within hatch-year birds) may be important when interpreting viral shedding results from experimental infections or surveillance. Differential shedding among hatch-year mallards could affect prevalence estimates, modeling of AIV spread, and subsequent risk assessments.