Mapping the niche of Ebola host animals

Using GBIF-mediated occurrence records for bats believed to act as reservoir hosts, researchers have mapped the areas of Africa potentially at risk from outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

Data resources used via GBIF : 1341 bat occurrence records used in model
Hypsignathus monstrusus, Jakob Fahr. Creative Commons CC BY-NC. Source: iNaturalist.org

Hypsignathus monstrusus, Jakob Fahr. Creative Commons CC BY-NC. Source: iNaturalist.org

A research team from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada mapped the areas of Africa potentially at risk from outbreaks of the Ebola virus, based on the environmental niche of bat species believed to act as reservoir hosts of the disease.

While human outbreaks such as the one currently affecting West Africa are very rare, the study identified at-risk areas covering 22 countries in Central and West Africa, with a combined human population of 22 million.

The research published in the eLife online journal modelled the zoonotic niche of the virus using occurrence data accessed through GBIF.org for three bat species, the hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus), little collared fruit bat (Myonycteris torquata) and Franquet's epauletted fruit bat (Epomops franqueti)identified as the most likely candidates to be reservoir species associated with transmission to humans.

The authors argue that better knowledge of the areas potentially at risk from the disease will help to prioritise surveillance for Ebola virus outbreaks, and improve the diagnostic capacity in the countries identified.Photo:

Citations

Pigott, David M., et al. "Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa." eLife 3 (2014): e04395.

DOI: 10.7554/eLife.04395

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