Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the main cause of human viral encephalitis in Asia, with a mortality rate reaching 30%, mostly affecting children. The traditionally described cycle involving wild birds as reservoirs, pigs as amplifying hosts and Culex mosquitoes as vectors is questioned, with increasing evidence of a more complex multi-host system involved in areas where densities of pigs are low, such as in Cambodia. In 2018, we examined pigs, chickens, ducks and dogs from Kandal province, Cambodia, for antibody response against JEV by hemagglutination inhibition and virus neutralization assays. Forces of infection (FOI) for flaviviruses and JEV were estimated per species and per unit of body surface area (BSA). JEV seroprevalence reached 31% (95% CI: 23-41%) in pigs, 1% (95% CI: 0.1-3%) in chickens, 12% (95% CI: 7-19%) in ducks and 35% (95% CI: 28-42%) in dogs. Pigs were most likely to be infected (FOI: 0.09 per month), but the FOI was higher in ducks than in pigs for a given BSA (ratio of 0.13). Dogs had a lower FOI than ducks but a higher FOI than chickens (0.01 per month). For a given BSA, dogs were less likely to be infected than pigs (ratio of 1.9). In Cambodia, the virus may be circulating between multiple hosts. Dogs live in close contact with humans, and estimating their exposure to JEV infection could be a relevant indicator of the risk for humans to get infected, which is poorly known due to underdiagnosis. Understanding the JEV cycle and developing tools to quantify the exposure of humans is essential to adapt and support control measures for this vaccine-preventable disease.
Keywords: Cambodia; Japanese encephalitis virus; dog; force of infection; multi-host.