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1.  Biosecurity measures to reduce influenza infections in military barracks in Ghana 
BMC Research Notes  2015;8:14.
Background
Military barracks in Ghana have backyard poultry populations but the methods used here involve low biosecurity measures and high risk zoonosis such as avian influenza A viruses or Newcastle disease. We assessed biosecurity measures intended to minimize the risk of influenza virus infection among troops and poultry keepers in military barracks.
Findings
We educated troops and used a questionnaire to collect information on animal populations and handling practices from 168 individuals within 203 households in military barracks. Cloacal and tracheal samples were taken from 892 healthy domestic and domesticated wild birds, 91 sick birds and 6 water samples for analysis using molecular techniques for the detection of influenza A virus. Of the 1090 participants educated and 168 that responded to a questionnaire, 818 (75%) and 129 (76.8%) respectively have heard of pandemic avian influenza and the risks associated with its infection. Even though no evidence of the presence of avian influenza infection was found in the 985 birds sampled, only 19.5% of responders indicated they disinfect their coops regularly and 28% wash their hands after handling their birds. Vaccination of birds and use of personal protective clothing while handling the birds were low putting the people at risk.
Conclusion
Though some efforts have been made to improve biosecurity practices, interventions that help to protect the poultry flock from direct contact have to be practiced. Basic hygiene like washing of hands with soap and running water and regular cleaning of chicken coops are needed to prevent the spread of diseases among birds and between birds and humans.
doi:10.1186/s13104-014-0956-0
PMCID: PMC4316646  PMID: 25612659
Backyard poultry; Pandemic avian influenza; Biosecurity; Education; Military; Ghana
2.  Continent-wide panmixia of an African fruit bat facilitates transmission of potentially zoonotic viruses 
Nature communications  2013;4:10.1038/ncomms3770.
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.
doi:10.1038/ncomms3770
PMCID: PMC3836177  PMID: 24253424
3.  Metagenomic study of the viruses of African straw-coloured fruit bats: Detection of a chiropteran poxvirus and isolation of a novel adenovirus 
Virology  2013;441(2):95-106.
Viral emergence as a result of zoonotic transmission constitutes a continuous public health threat. Emerging viruses such as SARS coronavirus, hantaviruses and henipaviruses have wildlife reservoirs. Characterising the viruses of candidate reservoir species in geographical hot spots for viral emergence is a sensible approach to develop tools to predict, prevent, or contain emergence events. Here, we explore the viruses of Eidolon helvum, an Old World fruit bat species widely distributed in Africa that lives in close proximity to humans. We identified a great abundance and diversity of novel herpes and papillomaviruses, described the isolation of a novel adenovirus, and detected, for the first time, sequences of a chiropteran poxvirus closely related with Molluscum contagiosum. In sum, E. helvum display a wide variety of mammalian viruses, some of them genetically similar to known human pathogens, highlighting the possibility of zoonotic transmission.
Highlights
•The first metagenomic study of a chiropteran (bat) suborder.•Demonstrates a novel and thorough bioinformatics pipeline for metagenomic studies.•Multiple novel, diverse viruses present in an urban African bat bushmeat species.•The study is supported with further molecular evidence and virus isolation.•The study contains the first evidence of chiropteran poxviruses and a novel bat adenovirus isolate.
doi:10.1016/j.virol.2013.03.014
PMCID: PMC3667569  PMID: 23562481
Virome; Bat; Megabat; Poxvirus; Viral emergence; Metagenomics; Adenovirus
4.  Demography of straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana 
Journal of mammalogy  2012;93(5):1393-1404.
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.
doi:10.1644/11-MAMM-A-270.1
PMCID: PMC3605799  PMID: 23525358
capture–recapture; Eidolon helvum; multistate model; population dynamics; survival; tooth cementum
5.  Novel, Potentially Zoonotic Paramyxoviruses from the African Straw-Colored Fruit Bat Eidolon helvum 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(3):1348-1358.
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.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01202-12
PMCID: PMC3554137  PMID: 23152534
6.  Troop education and avian influenza surveillance in military barracks in Ghana, 2011 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:957.
Background
Influenza A viruses that cause highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) also infect humans. In many developing countries such as Ghana, poultry and humans live in close proximity in both the general and military populations, increasing risk for the spread of HPAI from birds to humans. Respiratory infections such as influenza are especially prone to rapid spread among military populations living in close quarters such as barracks making this a key population for targeted avian influenza surveillance and public health education.
Method
Twelve military barracks situated in the coastal, tropical rain forest and northern savannah belts of the country were visited and the troops and their families educated on pandemic avian influenza. Attendants at each site was obtained from the attendance sheet provided for registration. The seminars focused on zoonotic diseases, influenza surveillance, pathogenesis of avian influenza, prevention of emerging infections and biosecurity. To help direct public health policies, a questionnaire was used to collect information on animal populations and handling practices from 102 households in the military barracks. Cloacal and tracheal samples were taken from 680 domestic and domesticated wild birds and analysed for influenza A using molecular methods for virus detection.
Results
Of the 1028 participants that took part in the seminars, 668 (65%) showed good knowledge of pandemic avian influenza and the risks associated with its infection. Even though no evidence of the presence of avian influenza (AI) infection was found in the 680 domestic and wild birds sampled, biosecurity in the households surveyed was very poor.
Conclusion
Active surveillance revealed that there was no AI circulation in the military barracks in April 2011. Though participants demonstrated good knowledge of pandemic avian influenza, biosecurity practices were minimal. Sustained educational programs are needed to further strengthen avian influenza surveillance and prevention in military barracks.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-957
PMCID: PMC3534292  PMID: 23137234
Surveillance; Pandemic avian influenza; Biosecurity; Education; Military; Ghana
7.  A framework for the study of zoonotic disease emergence and its drivers: spillover of bat pathogens as a case study 
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.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0228
PMCID: PMC3427567  PMID: 22966143
bat; zoonosis; emergence; collaborative framework
8.  Ebola Virus Antibodies in Fruit Bats, Ghana, West Africa 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(7):1207-1209.
doi:10.3201/eid1807.111654
PMCID: PMC3376795  PMID: 22710257
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
9.  Antibodies to Henipavirus or Henipa-Like Viruses in Domestic Pigs in Ghana, West Africa 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25256.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025256
PMCID: PMC3178620  PMID: 21966471
10.  Long-Term Survival of an Urban Fruit Bat Seropositive for Ebola and Lagos Bat Viruses 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e11978.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011978
PMCID: PMC2915915  PMID: 20694141
11.  A Silent Enzootic of an Orthopoxvirus in Ghana, West Africa: Evidence for Multi-Species Involvement in the Absence of Widespread Human Disease 
Human monkeypox has never been reported in Ghana, but rodents captured in forested areas of southern Ghana were the source of the monkeypox virus introduced into the United States in 2003. Subsequent to the outbreak in the United States, 204 animals were collected from two commercial trapping sites in Ghana. Animal tissues were examined for the presence of orthopoxvirus (OPXV) DNA using a real-time polymerase chain reaction, and sera were assayed for antibodies against OPXV. Animals from five genera (Cricetomys, Graphiurus, Funiscirus, and Heliosciurus) had antibodies against OPXV, and three genera (Cricetomys, Graphiurus, and Xerus) had evidence of OPXV DNA in tissues. Additionally, 172 persons living near the trapping sites were interviewed regarding risk factors for OPXV exposure, and their sera were analyzed. Fifty-three percent had IgG against OPXV; none had IgM. Our findings suggest that several species of forest-dwelling rodents from Ghana are susceptible to naturally occurring OPXV infection, and that persons living near forests may have low-level or indirect exposure to OPXV-infected animals, possibly resulting in sub-clinical infections.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0716
PMCID: PMC2844556  PMID: 20348530
12.  Evidence of Henipavirus Infection in West African Fruit Bats 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2739.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002739
PMCID: PMC2453319  PMID: 18648649
13.  Antibodies against Lagos Bat Virus in Megachiroptera from West Africa 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2008;14(6):926-928.
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.
doi:10.3201/eid1406.071421
PMCID: PMC2600291  PMID: 18507903
Lagos Bat Virus; rabies; megachiroptera; bat; Lyssavirus; dispatch

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