Mapping the zoonotic niche of Marburg virus disease in Africa

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2015 Jun;109(6):366-78. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/trv024. Epub 2015 Mar 27.


Background: Marburg virus disease (MVD) describes a viral haemorrhagic fever responsible for a number of outbreaks across eastern and southern Africa. It is a zoonotic disease, with the Egyptian rousette (Rousettus aegyptiacus) identified as a reservoir host. Infection is suspected to result from contact between this reservoir and human populations, with occasional secondary human-to-human transmission.

Methods: Index cases of previous human outbreaks were identified and reports of infection in animals recorded. These data were modelled within a species distribution modelling framework in order to generate a probabilistic surface of zoonotic transmission potential of MVD across sub-Saharan Africa.

Results: Areas suitable for zoonotic transmission of MVD are predicted in 27 countries inhabited by 105 million people. Regions are suggested for exploratory surveys to better characterise the geographical distribution of the disease, as well as for directing efforts to communicate the risk of practices enhancing zoonotic contact.

Conclusions: These maps can inform future contingency and preparedness strategies for MVD control, especially where secondary transmission is a risk. Coupling this risk map with patient travel histories could be used to guide the differential diagnosis of highly transmissible pathogens, enabling more rapid response to outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever.

Keywords: Boosted regression trees; Filovirus; Marburg virus disease; Rousettus aegyptiacus; Species distribution models; Viral haemorrhagic fever.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Disease Reservoirs / virology*
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Marburg Virus Disease / transmission*
  • Marburgvirus / genetics
  • Marburgvirus / isolation & purification*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / virology*


  • RNA, Viral