Insights into persistence mechanisms of a zoonotic virus in bat colonies using a multispecies metapopulation model

PLoS One. 2014 Apr 22;9(4):e95610. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095610. eCollection 2014.


Rabies is a worldwide zoonosis resulting from Lyssavirus infection. In Europe, Eptesicus serotinus is the most frequently reported bat species infected with Lyssavirus, and thus considered to be the reservoir of European bat Lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1). To date, the role of other bat species in EBLV-1 epidemiology and persistence remains unknown. Here, we built an EBLV-1-transmission model based on local observations of a three-cave and four-bat species (Myotis capaccinii, Myotis myotis, Miniopterus schreibersii, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) system in the Balearic Islands, for which a 1995-2011 serological dataset indicated the continuous presence of EBLV-1. Eptesicus serotinus was never observed in the system during the 16-year follow-up and therefore was not included in the model. We used the model to explore virus persistence mechanisms and to assess the importance of each bat species in the transmission dynamics. We found that EBLV-1 could not be sustained if transmission between M. schreibersii and other bat species was eliminated, suggesting that this species serves as a regional reservoir. Global sensitivity analysis using Sobol's method revealed that following the rate of autumn-winter infectious contacts, M. schreibersii's incubation- and immune-period durations, but not the infectious period length, were the most relevant factors driving virus persistence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Epidemiologic Factors
  • Female
  • Lyssavirus / classification
  • Lyssavirus / genetics
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Rabies / epidemiology
  • Rabies / transmission*
  • Rabies / virology*
  • Rhabdoviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Rhabdoviridae Infections / transmission
  • Rhabdoviridae Infections / virology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Spain
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / transmission*
  • Zoonoses / virology*

Grant support

This work was funded by the PREDEMICS UE project No. 278433, and the French Government's Investissement d'Avenir program, Laboratoire d'Excellence “Integrative Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases” (grant n°ANR-10-LABX-62-IBEID). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.