Bats and Bugs

About the project

Approximately 60-80% of human Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) originate from wildlife. Bats and Bugs has been investigating the infection and spillover dynamics of zoonotic bat viruses in Africa since 2007, through a joint collaboration between the Zoological Society of London, University of Cambridge, The Forestry Commission of Ghana and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). The project focuses particularly on henipaviruses, Lagos bat virus and filoviruses, exploring the impact of these pathogens on the bats themselves and how this might be enhanced or decreased by human influences on the environment.

 

Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon Helvum)
Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon Helvum)

Bats are keystone species for ecological function. Fruit bats are important for fruit tree pollination (for example mangos) and also aid seed dispersal. Fruit bats are common in the tropics and have been shown to carry viruses which cause fatal, incurable diseases. Although this has been the focus of much research in parts of Asia and Australia, it remains an understudied area within the African continent. In some regions of Africa, bats are widely hunted for food, increasing the potential for zoonotic disease transmission. Through understanding the ecology of pathogens in their natural hosts and the drivers of zoonotic spill-over, we hope to inform how to prevent disease emergence in people whilst also conserving bats.

The overarching aim our research is to understand the ecology of pathogens, such as viruses, in fruit bat populations. This includes understanding how different pathogens persist in their natural hosts, what affect they have on their hosts and how and when they are transmitted. Our research is working towards preventing potential zoonotic outbreaks in the future. Methods include collecting and testing samples in the form of blood, tissue, urine and faecal swabs, as well as creating dynamic models for host-pathogen interactions.  As we encroach further into natural habitats, the interactions between bats and human populations increase; this is especially the case as large populations of fruit bats have moved to towns and cities. This poses new challenges as how best to manage these populations in a sustainable and humane way. 

 

Caves in Ghana, where fruit bat colonies live
Caves in Ghana, where fruit bat colonies live

Our questions include:

  • How connected are different bat populations? To do this, we use techniques such as radio-telemetry and population genetics. These tell us if bats move between different colonies and, if so, how frequently this occurs. For the species of fruit bat that undergo annual migration, we can detect if the same bats come back to the same place every year.

  • What pathogens do African fruit bats carry? We capture bats and take small blood samples to look for antibodies that could indicate whether they have been previously exposed to certain pathogens. We also test urine and tissues using molecular techniques to identify the types of pathogens present.

  • How do bats and people interact? By finding out the risk factors for the spill-over of infection from bats to people, preventative measures can be taken while also protecting the bats from persecution.

Sample analysis in the University of Ghana laboratory
Sample analysis in the University of Ghana laboratory

References to main body of text

  • Duncan, R. Scot, and Colin A. Chapman. "Seed dispersal and potential forest succession in abandoned agriculture in tropical Africa." Ecological Applications 9.3 (1999): 998-1008.
  • Wu, Zhiqiang, et al. "Deciphering the bat virome catalog to better understand the ecological diversity of bat viruses and the bat origin of emerging infectious diseases." The ISME journal 10.3 (2016): 609.
  • Nature. Global trends in emerging infectious diseases, 2008 Feb 21; 451(7181):990-3.
  • The Forestry Commission of Ghana webpage: www.fcghana.org/

 

 

Associated Publications

Hayman, D. T. S., Luis, A. D., Restif, O., Baker, K. S., Fooks, A. R., Leach, C., Horton, D. L., Suu-Ire, R. D., Cunningham, A. A., Wood, J. L. N. & Webb, C. T. (2018) Maternal antibody and the persistence of a fatal lyssavirus in populations of seasonally breeding bats. PLoS ONE 13(6), e0198563. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198563.

 

Suu-Ire, R., Begeman, L., Banyard, A. C., Breed, A. C., Drosten, C., Eggerbauer, E., Freuling, C., Gibson, L., Goharriz, H., Horton, D. L., Jennings, D., Kuzmin, I. V., Marston, D., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., Sbarbaro, S. R., Selden, D., Wise, E. L., Kuiken, T., Fooks, A. R., Müller, T., Wood, J. L. N. & Cunningham, A. A. (2018) Pathogenesis of bat rabies in a natural reservoir: comparative susceptibility of the straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) to three strains of Lagos bat virus. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 12(3), e0006311. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0006311.

 

Peel, A. J., Baker, K. S., Hayman, D. T. S., Broder, C. C., Cunningham, A. A., Fooks, A. R., Garnier, R., Wood, J. L. N. & Restif, O. (2018) Support for viral persistence in bats from age-specific serology and models of maternal immunity. Scientific Reports 8, 3859.

 

Glennon, E. E., Restif, O., Riesle Sbarbaro, S., Garnier, R., Cunningham, A. A., Suu-Ire, R. D., Osei-Amponsah, R., Wood, J. L. N. & Peel, A. J. (2018) Domesticated animals as hosts of henipaviruses and filoviruses: A systematic review. The Veterinary Journal 233, 25-34.

 

Suu-Ire, R. D., Fooks, A. R., Banyard, A. C., Selden, D., Amponsah-Mensah, K., Riesle, S., Ziekah, M. Y., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., Wood, J. L. N. & Cunningham, A. A. (2017) Lagos Bat Virus Infection Dynamics in Free Ranging Straw-Colored Fruit Bats (Eidolon helvum). Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease 2, 25. doi:10.3390/tropicalmed2030025.

 

Cunningham, A. A., Daszak, P. and Wood, J. L. N. (2017) One Health, Emerging Infectious Diseases, and Wildlife: Two Decades of Progress? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 372, 20160167. doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0167

 

Cunningham, A. A., Scoones, I. & Wood, J. L. N. (2017) One Health for a changing world: new perspectives from Africa. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 372, 20160162.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0162.

 

Jephcott, F. L., Wood, J. L. N. & Cunningham, A. A. (2017) Facility-based surveillance for emerging infectious diseases; diagnostic practices in rural West African hospital settings: observations from Ghana. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 372, 20160544. doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0544.

 

Widagdo, W., Begeman, L., Schipper, D., van Run, P. R., Cunningham, A. A., Kley, N., Reusken, C. B., Haagmans, B. L., van den Brand, J. M. A. (2017) Tissue Distribution of the MERS-Coronavirus Receptor in Bats. Scientific Reports 7, 1193. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-01290-6.

 

Peel, A. J., Wood, J. L. N., Baker, K. S., Breed, A. C., Carvalho, A. de C., Fernández-Loras, A., Gabrieli, H. S., Gembu, G-C., Kakengi, V. A., Kaliba, P. M., Kityo, R. M., Lembo, T., Mba, F. E., Ramos, D. da T. L., Rodriguez-Prieto, I., Suu-Ire, R., Cunningham, A. A. & Hayman, D. T. S. (2017) How does Africa’s most hunted bat vary across the continent? Population traits of the straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) and its interactions with humans. Acta Chiropterologica 19, 77–92.

 

Marston, D.A., Banyard, A.C., McElhinney, L.M., Freuling, C.M., Finke, S., de Lamballerie, X., T. Müller and Fooks, A, R; (2017). The lyssavirus host-specificity conundrum – rabies virus – the exception not the rule. Current Opinion in Virology 28; 66-73.

 

Marston, D.A., Horton, D.L., Nunez, J., Ellis, R.J., Orton, R.J., Johnson, N., Banyard, A.C., McElhinney, L.M., Freuling, C.M., Firat, M., Ünal, N., Müller, T., de Lambellerie, X and Fooks, A, R; (2017). Genetic analysis of a rabies virus host shift event reveals within-host viral dynamics in a new host reservoir. Virus Evolution 3(2); vex038. doi: 10.1093/ve/vex038.

 

Olivero, J., Fa, J. E., Real, R., Farfán, M. A., Márquez, A. L., Vargas, J. M., González, J. P., Cunningham, A. A. & Nasi, R. (2017) Mammalian biogeography and the Ebola virus in Africa. Mammal Review 47, 24-37 doi:10.1111/mam.12074

 

Fooks, A.R. Cliquet, F., Finke, S., Freuling, C., Hemachudha, T., Mani, R., Müller, T., Nadin-Davis, S., Picard-Meyer, E., Wilde, H and A. Banyard (2017). Rabies. Nature Reviews Disease Primers 3; 17091.

 

Lo Iacono, G., Cunningham, A. A., Fichet-Calvet, E., Garry, R. F., Grant, D. S., Leach, M., Moses, L. M., Nichols, G., Schieffelin, J. S., Shaffer, J. G., Webb, C. T. & Wood, J. L. N. (2016) A unified framework for the infection dynamics of zoonotic spillover and spread. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 10, e0004957. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004957.

 

Riesle, S, de Vries, S., Stubbs, S., Amponsah-Mensah, K., Cunningham, A. A., Wood, J. L. N. & Sargan, D. (2016) The complete mitochondrial genome of Epomophorus gambianus (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) and its phylogenetic analysis. Mitochondrial DNA Part B: Resources 1, 447-449.

 

Peel, A. J., Baker, K. S., Hayman, D. T. S., Suu-Ire, R., Breed, A. C., Gembu, G-C., Lembo, T., Fernández-Loras, A., Sargan, D. R., Fooks, A. R., Cunningham, A. A. and Wood, J. L. N. (2016) Bat trait, genetic and pathogen data from large-scale investigations of African fruit bats, Eidolon helvum. Scientific Data 3, 160049. doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.49

 

Mannerings, A. O., Osikowicz, L. M., Restif, O., Nyarko, E., Suu-Ire, R. D., Cunningham, A. A., Wood, J. L. N. & Kosoy, M. Y. (2016) Exposure to bat-borne and other Bartonella species in humans in Ghana. Emerging Infectious Diseases 22, 922-924. doi:10.3201/eid2205.151908

 

Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A., Suu-Ire, R. D., Jephcott, F. L. & Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y. (2016) Ebola, bats and evidence-based policy. EcoHealth 13, 9-11. doi:10.1007/s10393-015-1050-3

 

Luis, A. D., O’Shea, T. J., Hayman, D. T. S., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A., Gilbert, A. T., Mills, J. N. & Webb, C. T. (2015) Network analysis of host-virus communities in bats and rodents reveals determinants of cross-species transmission. Ecology Letters 18, 1153-1162.

 

Kamins, A. O., Rowcliffe, M. J., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., Cunningham, A. A., Wood, J. L. N. & Restif, O. (2015) Characteristics and risk perceptions of Ghanaians potentially exposed to bat-borne zoonoses through bushmeat. EcoHealth 12, 104-120.

 

Lo Iacono, G., Cunningham, A. A., Fichet-Calvet, E., Garry, R. F., Grant, D. S., Khan, S. H., Leach, M., Moses, L. M., Schieffelin, J. S., Shaffer, J. G., Webb, C. T. & Wood, J. L. N. (2015) Using modelling to disentangle the relative contributions of zoonotic and anthroponotic transmission: the case of Lassa fever. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 9, e3398. DOI:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003398.

 

O’Shea, T. J., Cryan, P. M., Cunningham, A. A., Fooks, A. R., Hayman, D. T. S., Luis, A. D., Peel, A. J., Plowright, R. K. & Wood, J. L. N. (2014) Bat flight and emerging zoonotic viruses. Emerging Infectious Diseases 20. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2005.130539.

 

Baker, K., Suu-Ire, R., Barr, J., Hayman, D., Broder, C., Horton, D., Durrant, C., Murcia, P., Cunningham, A. A.¶ & Wood, J. L. N.¶ (2014) Viral antibody dynamics in a chiropteran host. Journal of Animal Ecology 83, 415-428. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12153.

 

Gilbert, A., Fooks, A. R., Hayman, D. T. S., Horton, D., Müller, T., Plowright, R., Peel, A. J., Bowen, R., Wood, J. L. N., Mills, J., Cunningham, A. A., George, D. & Rupprecht, C. (2013) Deciphering serology to understand the ecology of infectious diseases in wildlife. EcoHealth 10, 298-313.

 

Peel, A. J., Sargan, D. R., Baker, K. S., Hayman, D. T. S., Barr, J. A., Crameri, G., Suu-Ire, R., Broder, C. C., Wang, L-F.,  Fooks, A. R., Rossiter, S. J., Wood, J. L. N. & Cunningham, A. A. (2013) Continent-wide panmixia of an African fruit bat facilitates transmission of potentially zoonotic viruses. Nature Communications 4, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3770.

 

Peel, A. J., McKinley, T. J., Baker, K. S., Barr, J. A., Crameri, G., Hayman, D. T. S., Feng, Y-R., Broder, C. C., Wang, L-F., Cunningham, A. A.* & Wood, J. L. N.* (2013) Use of cross-reactive serological assays for detecting novel pathogens in wildlife: assessing an appropriate cutoff for henipavirus assays in African bats. Journal of Virological Methods 193, 295-303.

 

Baker, K. S., Alston, M., Bexfield, N., Daly, G., Heeney, J., Hayman, D. T. S., Suu-Ire, R., Cunningham, A. A., Kellam, P., Wood, J. L. N., Caccamo, M., Murcia, P. R. (2013) Metagenomic study of the viruses of African straw-coloured fruit bats: Detection of a chiropteran poxvirus and isolation of a novel adenovirus. Virology 441, 95-106.

 

Luis, A. D., Hayman, D. T. S., O’Shea, T. J., Cryan, P. M., Gilbert, A. T, Pulliam, J. R. C., Mills, J. N., Willis, C. K. R., Timonin, M. E., Cunningham, A. A., Fooks, A. R., Rupprecht, C. E., Wood, J. L. N. & Webb, C. T. (2013) A comparison of bats and rodents as reservoirs of zoonotic viruses: Are bats special? Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 280, 20122753. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2753.

 

Baker, K. S., Todd, S., Marsh, G. A., Crameri, G., Barr, J., Kamins, A. O., Peel, A. J., Yu, M., Hayman, D. T. S., Nadjm, B., Mtove, G., Amos, B., Reyburn, H., Nyarko, A. K., Suu-Ire, R., Murcia, P. R., Cunningham, A. A., Wood, J. L. N. & Wang, L-F. (2013) Novel potentially-zoonotic paramyxoviruses from the African straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum. Journal of Virology 87, 1348-1358.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Fooks, A. R., Rowcliffe, J. M., McCrea, R., Restif, O., Baker, K. S., Horton, D. L., Suu-Ire, R., Cunningham, A. A. & Wood, J. L. N. (2012) Endemic Lagos bat virus infection in Straw-coloured fruit bats (Eidolon helvum). Epidemiology and Infection 140, 2163-2171. DOI: 10.1017/S0950268812000167.

 

Restif, O., Hayman, D., Pulliam, J., Plowright, R., George, D., Luis, A., Bowen, R., Fooks, A. R., O’Shea, T., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A., Mill, J. & Webb, C. (2012) Model-Guided Fieldwork: practical guidelines for multi-disciplinary research on Wildlife ecological and epidemiological dynamics. Ecology Letters 15, 1083-1094. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01836.x.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., McCrea, R., Restif, O., Suu-Ire, R., Fooks, A. R., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A. & Rowcliffe, J. M. (2012) Demography of straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana. Journal of Mammalogy 93, 1393-1404

 

Wood, J. L. N., Leach, M., Waldman, L., MacGregor, H., Fooks, A. R., Jones, K., Restif, O., Dechmann, D., Hayman, D. T. S., Baker, K. S., Peel, A. J., Kamins, A. O., Fahr, J., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., Suu-Ire, R., Breiman, R. F., Epstein J. & Cunningham, A. A. (2012) A framework for the study of zoonotic disease emergence and its drivers: spillover of bat pathogens as a case study. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B. 367, 2881-2892.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Yu, M., Crameri, G., Wang, L-F., Suu-Ire, R., Wood, J. L. N. & Cunningham, A. A. (2012) Ebola virus antibodies in fruit bats, Ghana, West Africa. Emerging Infectious Diseases 18, 1207-1209. DOI: 10.3201/eid1807.111654.

 

Baker, K. S. Todd, S., Marsh, G., Fernandez-Loras, A., Suu-Ire, R., Wood, J. L. N., Wang, L. F., Murcia, P. R. M. & Cunningham, A. A. (2012) Co-circulation of diverse paramyxoviruses in an urban African fruit bat population. Journal of General Virology 93, 850-856.

 

Billeter, S. A., Hayman, D. T. S., Peel, A. J., Baker, K. S., Suu-Ire, R., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A., Dittmar, K. & Kosoy, M. Y. (2012) Bartonella species in bat flies (Diptera: Nycteribiidae) from western Africa. Parasitology 139, 324-329.

 

Peel, A. J., Baker, K. S., Crameri, G., Barr, J. A., Hayman, D. T. S., Wright, E., Broder, C. C., Fernández-Loras, A., Fooks, A. R., Wang, L. F., Cunningham, A. A. & Wood, J. L. N. (2012) Henipavirus Neutralising Antibodies in an Isolated Island Population of African Fruit Bats. PLoS ONE 7(1):e30346. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030346.

 

Kamins, A. O., Restif, O., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., Suu-Ire, R., Hayman, D. T. S., Cunningham, A. A., Wood, J. L. N. & Rowcliffe, J. M. (2011) Uncovering the fruit bat bushmeat commodity chain and the true extent of bat hunting in Ghana, West Africa. Biological Conservation 144, 3000-3008. DOI:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.09.003.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Wang, L-F., Barr, J., Baker, K. S., Suu-Ire, R., Broder, C. C., Cunningham, A. A. & Wood, J. L. N. (2011) Antibodies to henipavirus or henipa-like viruses in domestic pigs in Ghana, West Africa. PLoS ONE 6(9): e25256. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0025256.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Banyard, A. C., Wakeley, P. R., Harkess, G., Marston, D., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A. & Fooks, A. R. (2011) A Universal Real-time Assay for the Detection of Lyssaviruses. Journal of Virological Methods 177, 87-93. DOI: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2011.07.002.

 

Wright, E., Hayman,  D. T. S., Vaughan, A., Temperton, N. J., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A., Suu-Ire, R., Weiss, R. A. & Fooks, A. R. (2010) Virus neutralising activity of African fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) sera against emerging lyssaviruses. Virology 408,183-189.

 

Peel, A. J., Rossiter, S. J., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A. & Sargan, D. R. (2010) Characterization of microsatellite loci in the straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum (Pteropodidae). Conservation Genetics Resources. Published on-line: DOI: 10.1007/s12686-010-9190-9.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Emmerich, P., Suu-Ire, R., Fooks, A. R., Cunningham, A. A. and Wood, J. L. N. (2010) Long-term survival of an urban fruit bat seropositive for Ebola and Lagos Bat viruses. PLoS ONE 5(8), e11978. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0011978.

 

Feldman, K. S., Foord, A., Heine, H. G., Smith, I. L., Boyd, V., Marsh, G. A., Wood, J., Cunningham, A. A., Wang & L-F. (2009) Design and evaluation of consensus PCR assays for henipaviruses. Journal of Virological Methods 161, 52-57.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Suu-Ire, R., Breed, A. C., McEachern, J. A., Wang, L., Wood, J. L. N. & Cunningham, A. A. (2008) Evidence of henipavirus infection in West African fruit bats. PLoS ONE 3, e2739 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0002739.

 

Hayman, D. T. S., Fooks, A. R., Horton, D., Suu-Ire, R., Breed, A. C., Cunningham, A. A. & Wood, J. L. N. (2008) Antibodies against Lagos bat virus in megachiroptera from West Africa. Emerging Infectious Diseases 14, 926-928.

 

 

Current collaborators 

Professor Andrew Cunningham – Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

Dr Edward Wright - University of Sussex

Dr Georgia Tsagkogeorga – Queen Mary University of London

Dr Hubert Buczkowski - University of Sussex

Professor James Wood – University of Cambridge

Louise Gibson - Zoological Society of London (Bats and Bugs project coordinator for ZSL)

Dr Olivier Restif - University of Cambridge

Dr Richard Suu-Ire - The Forestry Commission of Ghana

Professor Stephen Rossiter - Queen Mary University of London

Dr Osborne Quaye – University of Ghana

Dr Tony Fooks – Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)