Conditions affecting the timing and magnitude of Hendra virus shedding across pteropodid bat populations in Australia


David J. Paez, J. Giles, H. McCallum, H. Field, D. Jordan, A. J. Peel, Raina K. Plowright


Epidemiology and Infection


Understanding infection dynamics in animal hosts is fundamental to managing spillover and emergence of zoonotic infections. Hendra virus is endemic in Australian pteropodid bat populations and can be lethal to horses and humans. However, we know little about the factors driving Hendra virus prevalence in resevoir bat populations, making spillover difficult to predict. We use Hendra virus prevalence data collected from 13 000 pooled bat urine samples across space and time to determine if pulses of prevalence are periodic and synchronized across sites. We also test whether site-specific precipitation and temperature affect the amplitude of the largest annual prevalence pulses. We found little evidence for a periodic signal in Hendra virus prevalence. Although the largest amplitude pulses tended to occur over winter, pulses could also occur in other seasons. We found that Hendra virus prevalence was weakly synchronized across sites over short distances, suggesting that prevalence is driven by local-scale effects. Finally, we found that drier conditions in previous seasons and the abundance of Pteropus alecto were positively correlated with the peak annual values of Hendra virus prevalence. Our results suggest that in addition to seasonal effects, bat density and local climatic conditions interact to drive Hendra virus infection dynamics.



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