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Concept: Natural reservoir


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.

Concepts: Bacteria, Evolution, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Mammal, Fever, Bat, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Natural reservoir


Hantaviruses are among the most important zoonotic pathogens of humans and the subject of heightened global attention. Despite the importance of hantaviruses for public health, there is no consensus on their evolutionary history and especially the frequency of virus-host co-divergence versus cross-species virus transmission. Documenting the extent of hantavirus biodiversity, and particularly their range of mammalian hosts, is critical to resolving this issue. Here, we describe four novel hantaviruses (Huangpi virus, Lianghe virus, Longquan virus, and Yakeshi virus) sampled from bats and shrews in China, and which are distinct from other known hantaviruses. Huangpi virus was found in Pipistrellus abramus, Lianghe virus in Anourosorex squamipes, Longquan virus in Rhinolophus affinis, Rhinolophus sinicus, and Rhinolophus monoceros, and Yakeshi virus in Sorex isodon, respectively. A phylogenetic analysis of the available diversity of hantaviruses reveals the existence of four phylogroups that infect a range of mammalian hosts, as well as the occurrence of ancient reassortment events between the phylogroups. Notably, the phylogenetic histories of the viruses are not always congruent with those of their hosts, suggesting that cross-species transmission has played a major role during hantavirus evolution and at all taxonomic levels, although we also noted some evidence for virus-host co-divergence. Our phylogenetic analysis also suggests that hantaviruses might have first appeared in Chiroptera (bats) or Soricomorpha (moles and shrews), before emerging in rodent species. Overall, these data indicate that bats are likely to be important natural reservoir hosts of hantaviruses.

Concepts: Evolution, Microbiology, Species, Mammal, Rodent, Bat, Zoonosis, Natural reservoir


Anthropogenic land use may influence transmission of multi-host vector-borne pathogens by changing diversity, relative abundance, and community composition of reservoir hosts. These reservoir hosts may have varying competence for vector-borne pathogens depending on species-specific characteristics, such as life history strategy. The objective of this study is to evaluate how anthropogenic land use change influences blood meal species composition and the effects of changing blood meal species composition on the parasite infection rate of the Chagas disease vector Rhodnius pallescens in Panama.

Concepts: Immune system, Infectious disease, Malaria, Chagas disease, Trypanosoma, Trypanosoma cruzi, Triatominae, Natural reservoir


Leptospirosis is an important but neglected bacterial zoonosis that has been largely overlooked in Africa. In this systematic review, we aimed to summarise and compare current knowledge of: (1) the geographic distribution, prevalence, incidence and diversity of acute human leptospirosis in Africa; and (2) the geographic distribution, host range, prevalence and diversity of Leptospira spp. infection in animal hosts in Africa.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Human, Africa, Incidence, Leptospira, Natural reservoir, Leptospirosis


Despite control efforts, human schistosomiasis remains prevalent throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. The global schistosomiasis burden has changed little since the new anthelmintic drug, praziquantel, promised widespread control.

Concepts: Schistosomiasis, Praziquantel, Pacific Ocean, South America, Americas, Natural reservoir, Anthelmintic, Emodepside


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.

Concepts: Scientific method, Evolution, Mammal, Primate, Rodent, Bat, Zoonosis, Natural reservoir


Progress in combatting zoonoses that emerge from wildlife is often constrained by limited knowledge of the biology of pathogens within reservoir hosts. We focus on the host-pathogen dynamics of four emerging viruses associated with bats: Hendra, Nipah, Ebola, and Marburg viruses. Spillover of bat infections to humans and domestic animals often coincides with pulses of viral excretion within bat populations, but the mechanisms driving such pulses are unclear. Three hypotheses dominate current research on these emerging bat infections. First, pulses of viral excretion could reflect seasonal epidemic cycles driven by natural variations in population densities and contact rates among hosts. If lifelong immunity follows recovery, viruses may disappear locally but persist globally through migration; in either case, new outbreaks occur once births replenish the susceptible pool. Second, epidemic cycles could be the result of waning immunity within bats, allowing local circulation of viruses through oscillating herd immunity. Third, pulses could be generated by episodic shedding from persistently infected bats through a combination of physiological and ecological factors. The three scenarios can yield similar patterns in epidemiological surveys, but strategies to predict or manage spillover risk resulting from each scenario will be different. We outline an agenda for research on viruses emerging from bats that would allow for differentiation among the scenarios and inform development of evidence-based interventions to limit threats to human and animal health. These concepts and methods are applicable to a wide range of pathogens that affect humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Biology, Insect, Vaccination, Population, Population ecology, Zoonosis, Natural reservoir


While the dispersal of hosts and vectors-through active or passive movement-is known to facilitate the spread and re-emergence of certain infectious diseases, little is known about the movement ecology of Oncomelania spp., intermediate snail host of the parasite Schistosoma japonicum, and its consequences for the spread of schistosomiasis in East and Southeast Asia. In China, despite intense control programs aimed at preventing schistosomiasis transmission, there is evidence in recent years of re-emergence and persistence of infection in some areas, as well as an increase in the spatial extent of the snail host. A quantitative understanding of the dispersal characteristics of the intermediate host can provide new insights into the spatial dynamics of transmission, and can assist public health officials in limiting the geographic spread of infection.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Southeast Asia, Infection, Schistosomiasis, Schistosoma, Natural reservoir


The 152 extant species of kissing bug include important vectors of the debilitating, chronic, and often fatal Chagas disease, which affects several million people mainly in Central and South America. An understanding of the natural hosts of this speciose group of blood-feeding insects has and will continue to aid ongoing efforts to impede the spread of Chagas disease. However, information on kissing bug biology is piecemeal and scattered, developed using methods with varying levels of accuracy over more than 100 years. Existing host records are heavily biased towards well-studied primary vector species and are derived from primarily three different types of observations, associational, immunological or DNA-based, with varying reliability.

Concepts: Chagas disease, Mosquito, Vector, Carlos Chagas, Reduviidae, Triatominae, Triatoma, Natural reservoir


Understanding distribution patterns of hosts implicated in the transmission of zoonotic disease remains a key goal of parasitology. Here, random forests are employed to model spatial patterns of the presence of the plateau pika (Ochotona spp.) small mammal intermediate host for the parasitic tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis which is responsible for a significant burden of human zoonoses in western China. Landsat ETM+ satellite imagery and digital elevation model data were utilized to generate quantified measures of environmental characteristics across a study area in Sichuan Province, China. Land cover maps were generated identifying the distribution of specific land cover types, with landscape metrics employed to describe the spatial organisation of land cover patches. Random forests were used to model spatial patterns of Ochotona spp. presence, enabling the relative importance of the environmental characteristics in relation to Ochotona spp. presence to be ranked. An index of habitat aggregation was identified as the most important variable in influencing Ochotona spp. presence, with area of degraded grassland the most important land cover class variable. 71% of the variance in Ochotona spp. presence was explained, with a 90.98% accuracy rate as determined by ‘out-of-bag’ error assessment. Identification of the environmental characteristics influencing Ochotona spp. presence enables us to better understand distribution patterns of hosts implicated in the transmission of Em. The predictive mapping of this Em host enables the identification of human populations at increased risk of infection, enabling preventative strategies to be adopted.

Concepts: Swine influenza, Chengdu, Topography, Remote sensing, Cestoda, Zoonosis, Natural reservoir, Digital elevation model