Worldwide, arthropod-borne (arbo)viruses are responsible for a significant public health burden with >100 viral species having the capacity to cause disease in humans. Arboviruses require a hematophagous arthropod vector for their transmission to vertebrates. During enzootic periods, these viruses survive via sylvatic life cycles which involves a variety of species of which many are currently not identified, especially not in Africa. We hypothesize that primates, which are often put forward as reservoir species, are likely also rather accidental hosts because their population numbers and the number of susceptible animals at any time, are not high enough to maintain sylvatic arbovirus cycles during extended epizootic periods. It seems more plausible that high density species like birds and rodents are potential reservoirs of arboviruses. These species have large numbers of offspring ensuring sufficient naïve animals at any time, and they are often attracted to human settlements, creating opportunities for direct and indirect contacts. To challenge the “primate as a reservoir” hypothesis, we will compare the prevalence of arboviruses in large numbers of bird, bat, antelope, carnivore and rodent from across Africa with the prevalence in primates and humans from the same areas. Identifying these animal hosts and reservoir species will help to better predict, control and prevent arbovirus spillover and emergence of epidemics in humans. To do this, we first need to develop a screening platform that enables the interrogation of large numbers of biological specimens for a variety of flavi- and alphaviruses simultaneously and requiring only small sample volumes. The development of this screening platform is subject of this “pump prime” proposal. Subsequent investigation of the sylvatic reservoir in Africa will be fostered through ongoing collaboration with Drs. Martine Peeters (IRD, Montpellier) and Erik Verheyen (KBIN, Brussels) and is subject of a complementary application for funding with the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). Additional applications of this technology include patient diagnostics and studies on chronic sequelae associated with arthrogenic alphavirus infections.
|Effective start/end date||15/10/17 → 14/01/19|
- Flemish Government - Department of Economy, Science & Innovation: €85,000.00