Evaluating risks of paramyxovirus and coronavirus emergence in China

Chmura, Aleksei Avery (2017) Evaluating risks of paramyxovirus and coronavirus emergence in China. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Viruses such HIV, SARS Coronavirus, Ebola, and influenza A virus pose significant burdens globally to human health due to their continued emergence from wildlife reservoirs such as birds, bats, and rodents. In southern China, animal markets, wildlife trade, and human activity create unique opportunities for zoonotic emergence as wild animals frequently come into contact with domestic animals and humans. Influenza A H7N9 virus and SARS emerged from live and wild animal markets in south China where frequent mixing and high volume of species enabled rapid viral evolution and emergence. This research aims to examine zoonotic viral emergence by testing the following hypotheses: • there are novel Coronaviruses (CoVs) and Paramyxoviruses (PMVs) in wildlife reservoirs in south China • human behaviour may result in viral spillover from wildlife reservoirs • market and other wildlife trade activities may be drivers of disease emergence • CoVs and PMVs circulating in wild animal populations may be closely related with or ancestral to known pathogenic viruses. Over a five-year period, oral and anal swabs and blood samples were collected from 3,146 wild-caught bats and 559 rodents from more than 30 different species primarily focused on wildlife trade pathways in southern China. RT-PCR assays were performed to screen for CoVs and PMVs. 39 CoVs (1.2%) and 114 PMVs (3.6%) were confirmed from bat samples by sequencing. Of the latter, 80 were novel bat PMVs. No rodent samples were positive for either virus. An online survey was conducted to assess 2,238 Chinese millennials’ attitudes about wildlife consumption and perceived health-risks. The results suggest that although this population is currently the primary driver of demand for wildlife trade in China, it may also be the most effectively targeted with campaigns to educate about zoonotic emergence from wildlife reservoirs. Diverse mammalian wildlife species including two listed by IUCN as vulnerable and one on China’s endangered species list were observed to be maintained in circulation over three years in two of the largest live animal wildlife markets in south China. An overall increase in the volume of wildlife traded in the two markets was also observed. Through 87 ethnographic interviews and 685 structured interviews with rural residents observed to be exposed at some level to wildlife, strong evidence was provided that local consumption of wildlife has reduced, but exposure and awareness of the commensurate health-risks have not. Additionally, exposure to bats, poultry, and rodents as well as handling, hunting and raising animals were all activities positively correlated with self-reported symptoms of viral infections of unknown aetiology and potentially of zoonotic pathogens. The information garnered in this study about the current status of wildlife trade, people’s attitudes and actions, as well as the ecology of these viruses and their hosts in south China, provides data that may be used towards predicting and preventing the emergence of these and other as-yet-unknown viruses. If patterns of human behaviour, wildlife trade, and viral ecology may be quantified, then a relative level of risk may be predicted and evaluated.

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