Ebola, Bats and Evidence-Based Policy


At the time of writing, West Africa is still dealing with the worst known Ebola epidemic. Quite rightly, the international focus has been on reducing the transmission rate of this disease until it is eradicated from the human population. Once the epidemic curve has declined to this point, scientific attention should be re-directed to the prevention of future zoonotic outbreaks. There already has been much written on how the West African epidemic might have been sparked, but speculation often has been presented as fact and in some cases has been contrary to available evidence. Such inaccurate reporting on the drivers of the emergence of this epidemic is unfortunate, as this can influence policy decisions while failing to identify how Ebola and other serious zoonoses should be controlled. Viral phylogenetic and epidemiological analyses of the current West African human outbreak indicate a single zoonotic transmission event from a reservoir host in Guinea in late 2013 (Baize et al. 2014), followed by human-tohuman transmission (Gire et al. 2014). A number of bat species appear to be the reservoir hosts of filoviruses, including Ebola (Olson et al. 2012; Olival and Hayman 2014). Bats are increasingly being implicated in zoonotic virus emergence (Luis et al. 2013), possibly because of a growing and closer human–bat interface and a number of postulated behavioural and physiological traits of bats, such as adaptations to flight (O’Shea et al. 2014). The ability to fly also can enable long-range distribution of pathogens through the hosts mixing within and amongst metapopulations. For example, we demonstrated panmixia across the continental range of the straw coloured fruit bat Eidolon helvum (Peel et al. 2013). Viruses within this species, which do not include Ebola, were similarly and unsurprisingly distributed across the continent. Despite the increasing volume of research on filoviruses in bats, there is little understanding of the quantitative intraor inter-specific dynamics of Ebola in bats (Olival and Hayman 2014). Longitudinal studies on infection dynamics are required to identify reservoir species and to help us to understand the drivers of zoonotic spillover (Wood et al. 2012). Some bat species might suffer from spillover, as is widely accepted for terrestrial species, and this dynamic could be an important risk factor for human infection. Little filovirus surveillance has been conducted in insectivorous species of bats, which makes the suggestion thatMops condylurus was the source of infection in the index human case in Guinea (Saéz et al. 2015) Published online: August 5, 2015

DOI: 10.1007/s10393-015-1050-3

Cite this paper

@article{Wood2015EbolaBA, title={Ebola, Bats and Evidence-Based Policy}, author={James L. N. Wood and Andrew A Cunningham and Richard D. Suu-Ire and Freya L Jephcott and Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu}, journal={EcoHealth}, year={2015}, volume={13}, pages={9-11} }