Microclimates Might Limit Indirect Spillover of the Bat Borne Zoonotic Hendra Virus

Abstract

Infectious diseases are transmitted when susceptible hosts are exposed to pathogen particles that can replicate within them. Among factors that limit transmission, the environment is particularly important for indirectly transmitted parasites. To try and assess a pathogens' ability to be transmitted through the environment and mitigate risk, we need to quantify its decay where transmission occurs in space such as the microclimate harbouring the pathogen. Hendra virus, a Henipavirus from Australian Pteropid bats, spills-over to horses and humans, causing high mortality. While a vaccine is available, its limited uptake has reduced opportunities for adequate risk management to humans, hence the need to develop synergistic preventive measures, like disrupting its transmission pathways. Transmission likely occurs shortly after virus excretion in paddocks; however, no survival estimates to date have used real environmental conditions. Here, we recorded microclimate conditions and fitted models that predict temperatures and potential evaporation, which we used to simulate virus survival with a temperature-survival model and modification based on evaporation. Predicted survival was lower than previously estimated and likely to be even lower according to potential evaporation. Our results indicate that transmission should occur shortly after the virus is excreted, in a relatively direct way. When potential evaporation is low, and survival is more similar to temperature dependent estimates, transmission might be indirect because the virus can wait several hours until contact is made. We recommend restricting horses' access to trees during night time and reducing grass under trees to reduce virus survival.

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Citation

Martin, Gerardo, Rebecca J Webb, Carla Chen, Raina K Plowright, and Lee F Skerratt. "Microclimates Might Limit Indirect Spillover of the Bat Borne Zoonotic Hendra Virus." Microbial Ecology 74, no. 1 (January 2017): 106-115. DOI: 10.1007/s00248-017-0934-x.
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