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  1. Xuan Liu (Ed.)
    Aim: Amphibian populations are threatened globally by anthropogenic change and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a fungal pathogen causing chytridiomycosis disease to varying degrees of severity. A closely related new fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), has recently left its supposed native range in Asia and decimated some salamander populations in Europe. Despite being noticed initially for causing chytridiomycosis-related population declines in salamanders, Bsal can also infect anurans and cause non-lethal chytridiomycosis or asymptomatic infections in salamanders. Bsal has not yet been detected in the United States, but given the United States has the highest salamander biodiversity on Earth, predictive assessments of salamander risk to Bsal infection will enable proactive allocation of research and conservation efforts into disease prevention and mitigation. Location: The United States, Europe and Asia. Methods: We first predicted the environmental suitability for the Bsal pathogen in the United States through an ecological niche model based on the pathogen's known native range in Asia, validated on the observed invasive range in Europe using bioclimatic, land cover, elevation, soil characteristics and human modification variables. Second, we predicted the susceptibility of salamander species to Bsal infection using a machine-learning model that correlated life history traits with published data on confirmed species infections.more »Finally, we mapped the geographic ranges of the subset of species that were predicted to be susceptible to Bsal infection. Results: In the United States, the overlap of environmental suitability and susceptible salamander species was greatest in the Pacific Northwest, near the Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic coast, and in inland states east of the Plains region. Main Conclusions: The overlap of these metrics identify salamander populations that may be at risk of developing Bsal infection and suggests priorities for pre-emptive research and conservation measures to protect at-risk salamander species from an additional pathogenic threat.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
  2. Abstract

    Increasing incidence of tick-borne human diseases and geographic range expansion of tick vectors elevates the importance of research on characteristics of tick species that transmit pathogens. Despite their global distribution and role as vectors of pathogens such as Rickettsia spp., ticks in the genus Dermacentor Koch, 1844 (Acari: Ixodidae) have recently received less attention than ticks in the genus Ixodes Latreille, 1795 (Acari: Ixodidae). To address this knowledge gap, we compiled an extensive database of Dermacentor tick traits, including morphological characteristics, host range, and geographic distribution. Zoonotic vector status was determined by compiling information about zoonotic pathogens found in Dermacentor species derived from primary literature and data repositories. We trained a machine learning algorithm on this data set to assess which traits were the most important predictors of zoonotic vector status. Our model successfully classified vector species with ~84% accuracy (mean AUC) and identified two additional Dermacentor species as potential zoonotic vectors. Our results suggest that Dermacentor species that are most likely to be zoonotic vectors are broad ranging, both in terms of the range of hosts they infest and the range of ecoregions across which they are found, and also tend to have large hypostomes and be small-bodiedmore »as immature ticks. Beyond the patterns we observed, high spatial and species-level resolution of this new, synthetic dataset has the potential to support future analyses of public health relevance, including species distribution modeling and predictive analytics, to draw attention to emerging or newly identified Dermacentor species that warrant closer monitoring for zoonotic pathogens.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  4. Helminths are parasites that cause disease at considerable cost to public health and present a risk for emergence as novel human infections. Although recent research has elucidated characteristics conferring a propensity to emergence in other parasite groups (e.g. viruses), the understanding of factors associated with zoonotic potential in helminths remains poor. We applied an investigator-directed learning algorithm to a global dataset of mammal helminth traits to identify factors contributing to spillover of helminths from wild animal hosts into humans. We characterized parasite traits that distinguish between zoonotic and non-zoonotic species with 91% accuracy. Results suggest that helminth traits relating to transmission (e.g. definitive and intermediate hosts) and geography (e.g. distribution) are more important to discriminating zoonotic from non-zoonotic species than morphological or epidemiological traits. Whether or not a helminth causes infection in companion animals (cats and dogs) is the most important predictor of propensity to cause human infection. Finally, we identified helminth species with high modelled propensity to cause zoonosis (over 70%) that have not previously been considered to be of risk. This work highlights the importance of prioritizing studies on the transmission of helminths that infect pets and points to the risks incurred by close associations with these animals.more »This article is part of the theme issue ‘Infectious disease macroecology: parasite diversity and dynamics across the globe’.« less
  5. Back and forth transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) between humans and animals will establish wild reservoirs of virus that endanger long-term efforts to control COVID-19 in people and to protect vulnerable animal populations. Better targeting surveillance and laboratory experiments to validate zoonotic potential requires predicting high-risk host species. A major bottleneck to this effort is the few species with available sequences for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor, a key receptor required for viral cell entry. We overcome this bottleneck by combining species' ecological and biological traits with three-dimensional modelling of host-virus protein–protein interactions using machine learning. This approach enables predictions about the zoonotic capacity of SARS-CoV-2 for greater than 5000 mammals—an order of magnitude more species than previously possible. Our predictions are strongly corroborated by in vivo studies. The predicted zoonotic capacity and proximity to humans suggest enhanced transmission risk from several common mammals, and priority areas of geographic overlap between these species and global COVID-19 hotspots. With molecular data available for only a small fraction of potential animal hosts, linking data across biological scales offers a conceptual advance that may expand our predictive modelling capacity for zoonotic viruses with similarly unknown host ranges.
  6. Yakob, Laith (Ed.)
    Improving our understanding of Mayaro virus (MAYV) ecology is critical to guide surveillance and risk assessment. We conducted a PRISMA-adherent systematic review of the published and grey literature to identify potential arthropod vectors and non-human animal reservoirs of MAYV. We searched PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, SciELO and grey-literature sources including PAHO databases and dissertation repositories. Studies were included if they assessed MAYV virological/immunological measured occurrence in field-caught, domestic, or sentinel animals or in field-caught arthropods. We conducted an animal seroprevalence meta-analysis using a random effects model. We compiled granular georeferenced maps of non-human MAYV occurrence and graded the quality of the studies using a customized framework. Overall, 57 studies were eligible out of 1523 screened, published between the years 1961 and 2020. Seventeen studies reported MAYV positivity in wild mammals, birds, or reptiles and five studies reported MAYV positivity in domestic animals. MAYV positivity was reported in 12 orders of wild-caught vertebrates, most frequently in the orders Charadriiformes and Primate. Sixteen studies detected MAYV in wild-caught mosquito genera including Haemagogus , Aedes , Culex , Psorophora , Coquillettidia , and Sabethes . Vertebrate animals or arthropods with MAYV were detected in Brazil, Panama, Peru, French Guiana, Colombia, Trinidad, Venezuela,more »Argentina, and Paraguay. Among non-human vertebrates, the Primate order had the highest pooled seroprevalence at 13.1% (95% CI: 4.3–25.1%). From the three most studied primate genera we found the highest seroprevalence was in Alouatta (32.2%, 95% CI: 0.0–79.2%), followed by Callithrix (17.8%, 95% CI: 8.6–28.5%), and Cebus/Sapajus (3.7%, 95% CI: 0.0–11.1%). We further found that MAYV occurs in a wide range of vectors beyond Haemagogus spp. The quality of evidence behind these findings was variable and prompts calls for standardization of reporting of arbovirus occurrence. These findings support further risk emergence prediction, guide field surveillance efforts, and prompt further in-vivo studies to better define the ecological drivers of MAYV maintenance and potential for emergence.« less
  7. Current methods for viral discovery target evolutionarily conserved proteins that accurately identify virus families but remain unable to distinguish the zoonotic potential of newly discovered viruses. Here, we apply an attention-enhanced longshort- term memory (LSTM) deep neural net classifier to a highly conserved viral protein target to predict zoonotic potential across betacoronaviruses. The classifier performs with a 94% accuracy. Analysis and visualization of attention at the sequence and structure-level features indicate possible association between important protein-protein interactions governing viral replication in zoonotic betacoronaviruses and zoonotic transmission.
  8. Low, Jenny (Ed.)
    Yellow fever virus (YFV) is the etiological agent of yellow fever (YF), an acute hemorrhagic vector-borne disease with a significant impact on public health, is endemic across tropical regions in Africa and South America. The virus is maintained in two ecologically and evolutionary distinct transmission cycles: an enzootic, sylvatic cycle, where the virus circulates between arboreal Aedes species mosquitoes and non-human primates, and a human or urban cycle, between humans and anthropophilic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. While the urban transmission cycle has been eradicated by a highly efficacious licensed vaccine, the enzootic transmission cycle is not amenable to control interventions, leading to recurrent epizootics and spillover outbreaks into human populations. The nature of YF transmission dynamics is multifactorial and encompasses a complex system of biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic factors rendering predictions of emergence highly speculative. The recent outbreaks in Africa and Brazil clearly remind us of the significant impact YF emergence events pose on human and animal health. The magnitude of the Brazilian outbreak and spillover in densely populated areas outside the recommended vaccination coverage areas raised the specter of human — to — human transmission and re-establishment of enzootic cycles outside the Amazon basin. Herein, we review the factors thatmore »influence the re-emergence potential of YFV in the neotropics and offer insights for a constellation of coordinated approaches to better predict and control future YF emergence events.« less
  9. In the light of the urgency raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, global investment in wildlife virology is likely to increase, and new surveillance programmes will identify hundreds of novel viruses that might someday pose a threat to humans. To support the extensive task of laboratory characterization, scientists may increasingly rely on data-driven rubrics or machine learning models that learn from known zoonoses to identify which animal pathogens could someday pose a threat to global health. We synthesize the findings of an interdisciplinary workshop on zoonotic risk technologies to answer the following questions. What are the prerequisites, in terms of open data, equity and interdisciplinary collaboration, to the development and application of those tools? What effect could the technology have on global health? Who would control that technology, who would have access to it and who would benefit from it? Would it improve pandemic prevention? Could it create new challenges? This article is part of the theme issue ‘Infectious disease macroecology: parasite diversity and dynamics across the globe’.