Uncovering the origin of recent and future zoonotic epidemics in tropical Africa (OMEGA). 01/09/2020 - 31/08/2030

Abstract

OMEgA studies emerging zoonotic diseases in Afrotropical mammals by investigating the ecology of the infections and the evolutionary aspects of the diversity of the pathogens and their associated natural hosts. Our two main objectives are to (i) unravel how the phylogeography, evolutionary history and ecology of hosts can provide insights about the diversity, origin and distribution of these zoonotic pathogens; (ii) discern which ecological mechanisms and environmental changes (climate, landscape, biodiversity loss, …) may facilitate host switching of pathogens or maintain host specificity, even in the absence of a strong molecular barrier. To address these questions, we will use Next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods to screen specimens and tissues from museum collections as well as freshly collected material for the presence of pathogens, to verify the hosts' taxonomy, the phylogenetic and ecological relationships among host species, and the distribution ranges of genetically discrete host populations. The resulting information on the hosts' taxonomy, biology, the transmission ecology of reliably identified pathogens inferred from their presence, diversity, host specificity and evolution will allow us to answer the profiles' main objectives. These findings will not only increase our fundamental knowledge on parasites/pathogen diversity, but also address important One Health aspects as they will shed new light on the conditions that result in zoonotic pathogens switching hosts from wildlife humans. Crucially, our results will contribute towards a better understanding of the relative contributions of anthropogenic global changes (climate change, erosion of tropical forests, changing landscape and human activity patterns) to the emergence of novel zoonotic pathogens, some of which pose potential global health risks.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Evolutionary biology of arenavirus-rodent interactions. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

The evolutionary interactions of host-pathogen systems are a very interesting topic of fundamental biology, but also contribute to a better understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of infections. I will focus my research on Mopeia virus (MOPV), which is closely related to the dangerous human pathogen Lassa virus (LASV) and has the same rodent host, Mastomys natalensis. MOPV is not pathogenic to humans though, making research on this virus in natural populations of M. natalensis much more feasible. I am aiming to identify the basis of the MOPV-M. natalensis interaction, by performing infection experiments in a laboratory population of M. natalensis and by genotyping different strains of MOPV. After this, I will analyse the variability of these loci in host and virus genome in natural populations through time and space.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Evolutionary biology of arenavirus-rodent interactions. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

The evolutionary interactions of host-pathogen systems are a very interesting topic of fundamental biology, but also contribute to a better understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of infections. I will focus my research on Mopeia virus (MOPV), which is closely related to the dangerous human pathogen Lassa virus (LASV) and has the same rodent host, Mastomys natalensis. MOPV is not pathogenic to humans though, making research on this virus in natural populations of M. natalensis much more feasible. I am aiming to identify the basis of the MOPV-M. natalensis interaction, by performing infection experiments in a laboratory population of M. natalensis and by genotyping different strains of MOPV. After this, I will analyse the variability of these loci in host and virus genome in natural populations through time and space.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)