viruses; Ebola virus; Ebolavirus sp.; Reston Ebola virus; REBOV; Zaire Ebola virus; ZEBOV; African fruit bats; Africa; Epomops franqueti; Epomophorus gambianus; Hypsignathus monstrosus; Nanonycteris veldkampii; Eidolon helvum; viruses; Ghana
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.
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
► 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
To investigate the presence of Lagos bat virus (LBV)–specific antibodies in megachiroptera from West Africa, we conducted fluorescent antibody virus neutralization tests. Neutralizing antibodies were detected in Eidolon helvum (37%), Epomophorus gambianus (3%), and Epomops buettikoferi (33%, 2/6) from Ghana. These findings confirm the presence of LBV in West Africa.
Lagos Bat Virus; rabies; megachiroptera; bat; Lyssavirus; dispatch
Vector control remains the primary defense against dengue fever. Its success relies on the assumption that vector density is related to disease transmission. Two operational issues include the amount by which mosquito density should be reduced to minimize transmission and the spatio-temporal allotment of resources needed to reduce mosquito density in a cost-effective manner. Recently, a novel technology, MI-Dengue, was implemented city-wide in several Brazilian cities to provide real-time mosquito surveillance data for spatial prioritization of vector control resources. We sought to understand the role of city-wide mosquito density data in predicting disease incidence in order to provide guidance for prioritization of vector control work.
We used hierarchical Bayesian regression modeling to examine the role of city-wide vector surveillance data in predicting human cases of dengue fever in space and time. We used four years of weekly surveillance data from Vitoria city, Brazil, to identify the best model structure. We tested effects of vector density, lagged case data and spatial connectivity. We investigated the generality of the best model using an additional year of data from Vitoria and two years of data from other Brazilian cities: Governador Valadares and Sete Lagoas.
We found that city-wide, neighborhood-level averages of household vector density were a poor predictor of dengue-fever cases in the absence of accounting for interactions with human cases. Effects of city-wide spatial patterns were stronger than within-neighborhood or nearest-neighborhood effects. Readily available proxies of spatial relationships between human cases, such as economic status, population density or between-neighborhood roadway distance, did not explain spatial patterns in cases better than unweighted global effects.
For spatial prioritization of vector controls, city-wide spatial effects should be given more weight than within-neighborhood or nearest-neighborhood connections, in order to minimize city-wide cases of dengue fever. More research is needed to determine which data could best inform city-wide connectivity. Once these data become available, MI-dengue may be even more effective if vector control is spatially prioritized by considering city-wide connectivity between cases together with information on the location of mosquito density and infected mosquitos.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-015-0659-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Vector control; Dengue; Surveillance; Vector density; Mosquito-human interactions; Gravity model; INLA
Bartonellae are facultative intracellular bacteria and are highly adapted to their mammalian host cell niches. Straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) are commonly infected with several bartonella strains. To elucidate the genetic diversity of these bartonella strains, we analyzed 79 bartonella isolates from straw-colored fruit bats in seven countries across Africa (Cameroon, Annobon island of Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda) using a multi-locus sequencing typing (MLST) approach based on nucleotide sequences of eight loci (ftsZ, gltA, nuoG, ribC, rpoB, ssrA, ITS, and 16S rRNA). The analysis of each locus but ribC demonstrated clustering of the isolates into six genogroups (E1 – E5 and Ew), while ribC was absent in the isolates belonging to the genogroup Ew. In general, grouping of all isolates by each locus was mutually supportive; however, nuoG, gltA, and rpoB showed some incongruity with other loci in several strains, suggesting a possibility of recombination events, which were confirmed by network analyses and recombination/mutation rate ratio (r/m) estimations. The MLST scheme revealed 45 unique sequence types (ST1 – 45) among the analyzed bartonella isolates. Phylogenetic analysis of concatenated sequences supported the discrimination of six phylogenetic lineages (E1 – E5 and Ew) corresponding to separate and unique Bartonella species. One of the defined lineages, Ew, consisted of only two STs (ST1 and ST2), and comprised more than one-quarter of the analyzed isolates, while other lineages contained higher numbers of STs with a smaller number of isolates belonging to each lineage. The low number of allelic polymorphisms of isolates belonging to Ew suggests a more recent origin for this species. Our findings suggest that at least six Bartonella species are associated with straw-colored fruit bats, and that distinct STs can be found across the distribution of this bat species, including in populations of bats which are genetically distinct.
Bats, with over 1000 recognized species, represent about 20% of all classified mammalian species worldwide. These mammals have a wide range of ecologies and life-history traits, and are now widely recognized as important reservoirs of many pathogens. Bartonella species have been found distributed in a wide range of mammalian species, including bats. About half of recognized Bartonella species, including one bat-associated species, have been associated with human illness. Previous studies have shown that Bartonella species are extremely diverse, with or without evident specificity to their mammalian hosts. Possessing many unique aspects, bartonellae can serve as a useful biological marker to study how microorganisms have evolved and diversified along with their animal hosts in evolutionary history. In this study, we applied multi-locus sequence typing, or MLST, to study the genetic differences of straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum)-associated Bartonella species. Our studies suggest Bartonella species have both exchanged genetic materials among species through recombination events and lost genes that are perhaps superfluous to their life cycles, which includes an intracellular stage in 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
Filoviruses, including Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus, pose significant threats to public health and species conservation by causing hemorrhagic fever outbreaks with high mortality rates. Since the first outbreak in 1967, their origins, natural history, and ecology remained elusive until recent studies linked them through molecular, serological, and virological studies to bats. We review the ecology, epidemiology, and natural history of these systems, drawing on examples from other bat-borne zoonoses, and highlight key areas for future research. We compare and contrast results from ecological and virological studies of bats and filoviruses with those of other systems. We also highlight how advanced methods, such as more recent serological assays, can be interlinked with flexible statistical methods and experimental studies to inform the field studies necessary to understand filovirus persistence in wildlife populations and cross-species transmission leading to outbreaks. We highlight the need for a more unified, global surveillance strategy for filoviruses in wildlife, and advocate for more integrated, multi-disciplinary approaches to understand dynamics in bat populations to ultimately mitigate or prevent potentially devastating disease outbreaks.
bats; Chiroptera; disease ecology; emerging infectious diseases; Ebola; Filovirus; Lloviu; Marburg; Ravn; review
Emerging pathogens that originate from invasive species have caused numerous significant epidemics. Some bacteria of genus Bartonella are rodent-borne pathogens that can cause disease in humans and animals alike. We analyzed gltA sequences of 191 strains of rat-associated bartonellae from 29 rodent species from 17 countries to test the hypotheses that this bacterial complex evolved and diversified in Southeast Asia before being disseminated by commensal rats Rattus rattus (black rat) and Rattus norvegicus (Norway rat) to other parts of the globe. The analysis suggests that there have been numerous dispersal events within Asia and introductions from Asia to other regions, with six major clades containing Southeast Asian isolates that appear to have been dispersed globally. Phylogeographic analyses support the hypotheses that these bacteria originated in Southeast Asia and commensal rodents (R. rattus and R. norvegicus) play key roles in the evolution and dissemination of this Bartonella complex throughout the world.
Bayesian inference; emerging pathogens; invasive species; phylogeography; Rattus; reservoir host
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
Bats carry a variety of paramyxoviruses that impact human and domestic animal health when spillover occurs. Recent studies have shown a great diversity of paramyxoviruses in an urban-roosting population of straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana. Here, we investigate this further through virus isolation and describe two novel rubulaviruses: Achimota virus 1 (AchPV1) and Achimota virus 2 (AchPV2). The viruses form a phylogenetic cluster with each other and other bat-derived rubulaviruses, such as Tuhoko viruses, Menangle virus, and Tioman virus. We developed AchPV1- and AchPV2-specific serological assays and found evidence of infection with both viruses in Eidolon helvum across sub-Saharan Africa and on islands in the Gulf of Guinea. Longitudinal sampling of E. helvum indicates virus persistence within fruit bat populations and suggests spread of AchPVs via horizontal transmission. We also detected possible serological evidence of human infection with AchPV2 in Ghana and Tanzania. It is likely that clinically significant zoonotic spillover of chiropteran paramyxoviruses could be missed throughout much of Africa where health surveillance and diagnostics are poor and comorbidities, such as infection with HIV or Plasmodium sp., are common.
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
Isolated islands provide valuable opportunities to study the persistence of viruses in wildlife populations, including population size thresholds such as the critical community size. The straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, has been identified as a reservoir for henipaviruses (serological evidence) and Lagos bat virus (LBV; virus isolation and serological evidence) in continental Africa. Here, we sampled from a remote population of E. helvum annobonensis fruit bats on Annobón island in the Gulf of Guinea to investigate whether antibodies to these viruses also exist in this isolated subspecies. Henipavirus serological analyses (Luminex multiplexed binding and inhibition assays, virus neutralisation tests and western blots) and lyssavirus serological analyses (LBV: modified Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralisation test, LBV and Mokola virus: lentivirus pseudovirus neutralisation assay) were undertaken on 73 and 70 samples respectively. Given the isolation of fruit bats on Annobón and their lack of connectivity with other populations, it was expected that the population size on the island would be too small to allow persistence of viruses that are thought to cause acute and immunising infections. However, the presence of antibodies against henipaviruses was detected using the Luminex binding assay and confirmed using alternative assays. Neutralising antibodies to LBV were detected in one bat using both assays. We demonstrate clear evidence for exposure of multiple individuals to henipaviruses in this remote population of E. helvum annobonensis fruit bats on Annobón island. The situation is less clear for LBV. Seroprevalences to henipaviruses and LBV in Annobón are notably different to those in E. helvum in continental locations studied using the same sampling techniques and assays. Whilst cross-sectional serological studies in wildlife populations cannot provide details on viral dynamics within populations, valuable information on the presence or absence of viruses may be obtained and utilised for informing future studies.
Henipaviruses, Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV), have Pteropid bats as their known natural reservoirs. Antibodies against henipaviruses have been found in Eidolon helvum, an old world fruit bat species, and henipavirus-like nucleic acid has been detected in faecal samples from E. helvum in Ghana. The initial outbreak of NiV in Malaysia led to over 265 human encephalitis cases, including 105 deaths, with infected pigs acting as amplifier hosts for NiV during the outbreak. We detected non-neutralizing antibodies against viruses of the genus Henipavirus in approximately 5% of pig sera (N = 97) tested in Ghana, but not in a small sample of other domestic species sampled under a E. helvum roost. Although we did not detect neutralizing antibody, our results suggest prior exposure of the Ghana pig population to henipavirus(es). Because a wide diversity of henipavirus-like nucleic acid sequences have been found in Ghanaian E. helvum, we hypothesise that these pigs might have been infected by henipavirus(es) sufficiently divergent enough from HeVor NiV to produce cross-reactive, but not cross-neutralizing antibodies to HeV or NiV.
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout Africa, with the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages have been detected in West Africa. Lineage 2 is present throughout West Africa, whereas Africa 1a dominates in northern and eastern Africa, but has been detected in Nigeria and Gabon, and Africa 1b was previously absent from West Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected over an eighteen-month period (2007–2009). Phylogenetic analysis of the sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, belonging to lineages previously detected in sub-Saharan Africa. However, unlike earlier reported studies that suggested a single lineage (Africa 2) circulates in West Africa, we identified viruses belonging to the Africa 2 lineage and both Africa 1 (a and b) sub-lineages. Phylogeographic Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis of a 405 bp fragment of the RABV nucleoprotein gene from the 76 new sequences derived from Ghanaian animals suggest that within the Africa 2 lineage three clades co-circulate with their origins in other West African countries. Africa 1a is probably a western extension of a clade circulating in central Africa and the Africa 1b virus a probable recent introduction from eastern Africa. We also developed and tested a novel reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the detection of RABV in African laboratories. This RT-LAMP was shown to detect both Africa 1 and 2 viruses, including its adaptation to a lateral flow device format for product visualization. These data suggest that RABV epidemiology is more complex than previously thought in West Africa and that there have been repeated introductions of RABV into Ghana. This analysis highlights the potential problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes in the absence of a regional programme.
Rabies virus (RABV) is widespread throughout Africa, with the domestic dog being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages (Africa 1 and 2) are thought to circulate in western and central Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected from 2007 to 2009. In addition we developed and tested a novel molecular diagnostic assay for the detection of RABV, which offers an alternative RABV diagnostic tool for African laboratories. Our analysis of the genetic sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, however, unlike previous studies we detected two sub-Saharan African RABV viruses (Africa 1 and 2) in this cohort, which included a single virus previously undetected in West Africa. We suggest that there has been repeated introduction of new RABVs into Ghana over a prolonged period from other West African countries and more recently from eastern Africa. These observations further highlight the problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes at a local, rather than regional level.
Ebolaviruses (EBOV) (family Filoviridae) cause viral hemorrhagic fevers in humans and non-human primates when they spill over from their wildlife reservoir hosts with case fatality rates of up to 90%. Fruit bats may act as reservoirs of the Filoviridae. The migratory fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, is common across sub-Saharan Africa and lives in large colonies, often situated in cities. We screened sera from 262 E. helvum using indirect fluorescent tests for antibodies against EBOV subtype Zaire. We detected a seropositive bat from Accra, Ghana, and confirmed this using western blot analysis. The bat was also seropositive for Lagos bat virus, a Lyssavirus, by virus neutralization test. The bat was fitted with a radio transmitter and was last detected in Accra 13 months after release post-sampling, demonstrating long-term survival. Antibodies to filoviruses have not been previously demonstrated in E. helvum. Radio-telemetry data demonstrates long-term survival of an individual bat following exposure to viruses of families that can be highly pathogenic to other mammal species. Because E. helvum typically lives in large urban colonies and is a source of bushmeat in some regions, further studies should determine if this species forms a reservoir for EBOV from which spillover infections into the human population may occur.
Henipaviruses are emerging RNA viruses of fruit bat origin that can cause fatal encephalitis in man. Ghanaian fruit bats (megachiroptera) were tested for antibodies to henipaviruses. Using a Luminex multiplexed microsphere assay, antibodies were detected in sera of Eidolon helvum to both Nipah (39%, 95% confidence interval: 27–51%) and Hendra (22%, 95% CI: 11–33%) viruses. Virus neutralization tests further confirmed seropositivity for 30% (7/23) of Luminex positive serum samples. Our results indicate that henipavirus is present within West Africa.
Infectious disease ecology has recently raised its public profile beyond the scientific community due to the major threats that wildlife infections pose to biological conservation, animal welfare, human health and food security. As we start unravelling the full extent of emerging infectious diseases, there is an urgent need to facilitate multidisciplinary research in this area. Even though research in ecology has always had a strong theoretical component, cultural and technical hurdles often hamper direct collaboration between theoreticians and empiricists. Building upon our collective experience of multidisciplinary research and teaching in this area, we propose practical guidelines to help with effective integration among mathematical modelling, fieldwork and laboratory work. Modelling tools can be used at all steps of a field-based research programme, from the formulation of working hypotheses to field study design and data analysis. We illustrate our model-guided fieldwork framework with two case studies we have been conducting on wildlife infectious diseases: plague transmission in prairie dogs and lyssavirus dynamics in American and African bats. These demonstrate that mechanistic models, if properly integrated in research programmes, can provide a framework for holistic approaches to complex biological systems.
Field ecology; infectious diseases; mathematical models; statistical models; study design; wildlife epidemiology