In the recent past, peste des petits ruminants (PPR) emerged in East Africa causing outbreaks in small livestock across different countries, with evidences of spillover to wildlife. In order to understand better PPR at the wildlife-livestock interface, we investigated patterns of peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) exposure, disease outbreaks, and viral sequences in the northern Albertine Rift. PPRV antibodies indicated a widespread exposure in apparently healthy wildlife from South Sudan (2013) and Uganda (2015, 2017). African buffaloes and Uganda kobs <1-year-old from Queen Elizabeth National Park (2015) had antibodies against PPRV N-antigen and local serosurvey captured a subsequent spread of PPRV in livestock. Outbreaks with PPR-like syndrome in sheep and goats were recorded around the Greater Virunga Landscape in Kasese (2016), Kisoro and Kabale (2017) from western Uganda, and in North Kivu (2017) from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This landscape would not be considered typical for PPR persistence as it is a mixed forest-savannah ecosystem with mostly sedentary livestock. PPRV sequences from DRC (2017) were identical to strains from Burundi (2018) and confirmed a transboundary spread of PPRV. Our results indicate an epidemiological linkage between epizootic cycles in livestock and exposure in wildlife, denoting the importance of PPR surveillance on wild artiodactyls for both conservation and eradication programs.
Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo; PPR; South Sudan; Uganda; epidemiology; host range; peste des petits ruminants; transboundary emerging diseases; wildlife.