DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Many emerging diseases are caused by zoonotic pathogens which spillover from wildlife reservoirs to humans following changes in demography, behavior or environment. Veterinarians can provide important input into research on emerging zoonoses, but specific training programs for these are lacking. The proposed training program will provide multidisciplinary training in molecular and serological diagnostic techniques and mathematical modeling of disease dynamics of a lethal zoonosis. Nipah virus (NiV) is a recently discovered, lethal, Class C potential bioterror pathogen with a case fatality rate of 40 - 79% in humans and for which no vaccines, nor clinically-proven therapies exist. Fruit bats (Pteropus spp.), have been identified as the natural reservoir for NiV and related viruses in Asia and Australia. Since 2001, NiV has caused five recognized outbreaks in Bangladesh and one in India. In contrast to Malaysia, where the virus first emerged, no intermediate animal host has been identified in Bangladesh, and there is evidence of direct bat-to-human transmission and person-to-person transmission.
The specific aims of this proposal are to: 1) Examine the distribution of NiV in flying foxes (Pteropus giganteus) in Bangladesh and bat migration among colonies by catching and testing bats for NiV using serological and molecular techniques, and satellite telemetry; 2) Test the hypothesis that seasonal NiV outbreaks in Bangladesh correspond to seasonal spikes in viral prevalence in fruit bat reservoirs during pregnancy and synchronous birthing, by conducting a longitudinal study within a bat colony in an area adjacent to a human NiV outbreak; and 3) Develop a parameterized predictive model for Nipah virus emergence in Bangladesh using data from this research to inform the model. I will co-analyse human epidemiological data with bat transmission data to identify specific temporal, spatial and contact risks for NiV spillover.
Results from this study can be used to inform public health policy for the prevention of Nipah virus outbreaks. Ultimately, I hope to create a model for identifying "hotspots" of high risk for NiV outbreaks in Bangladesh which can then be extrapolated to other countries where fruit bats occur such as India. This training program will provide a unique opportunity to develop my skills as a veterinary epidemiologist so that I can design and lead future research on the causes of zoonotic disease emergence.