Ecological dynamics of emerging bat virus spillover
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Viruses that originate in bats may be the most notorious emerging zoonoses that spill over from wildlife into domestic animals and humans. Understanding how these infections filter through ecological systems to cause disease in humans is of profound importance to public health. Transmission of viruses from bats to humans requires a hierarchy of enabling conditions that connect the distribution of reservoir hosts, viral infection within these hosts, and exposure and susceptibility of recipient hosts. For many emerging bat viruses, spillover also requires viral shedding from bats, and survival of the virus in the environment. Focusing on Hendra virus, but also addressing Nipah virus, Ebola virus, Marburg virus and coronaviruses, we delineate this cross-species spillover dynamic from the within-host processes that drive virus excretion to land-use changes that increase interaction among species. We describe how land-use changes may affect co-occurrence and contact between bats and recipient hosts. Two hypotheses may explain temporal and spatial pulses of virus shedding in bat populations: episodic shedding from persistently infected bats or transient epidemics that occur as virus is transmitted among bat populations. Management of livestock also may affect the probability of exposure and disease. Interventions to decrease the probability of virus spillover can be implemented at multiple levels from targeting the reservoir host to managing recipient host exposure and susceptibility.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B Biological Sciences