A biogeographical description of the wild waterbird species associated with high-risk landscapes of Japanese encephalitis virus in India

Transbound Emerg Dis. 2022 Sep;69(5):e3015-e3023. doi: 10.1111/tbed.14656. Epub 2022 Jul 22.


Wild reservoirs of Japanese encephalitis virus are under-studied globally, which presents critical knowledge gaps for JEV epidemiology and infection ecology despite decades of received wisdom regarding this high-impact mosquito-borne virus. As a result, ardeid birds, generally understood to be the primary reservoirs for JEV, as well as other waterbirds occupying landscapes at high risk for spillover to humans, are frequently ignored by current surveillance mechanisms and infrastructure. This is particularly true in India, which experiences a high annual burden of human outbreaks. Incorporating wild reservoirs into surveillance of human and livestock populations is therefore essential but will first require a data-driven approach to target individual host species. The current study sought to identify preliminary waterbird target species for JEV surveillance development based on species' distributions in high-risk landscapes. Twenty-one target species were identified after adjusting species presence and abundance for the biotic constraints of sympatry. Furthermore, ardeid bird species richness demonstrated a strong non-linear association with the distribution of human JEV outbreaks, which suggested areas with the highest ardeid species richness corresponded to low JEV outbreak risk. No association was identified between JEV outbreaks and anatid or rallid richness. The lack of association between Anatidae and Rallidae family-level diversity and JEV outbreak risk notwithstanding, this study did identify several individual species among these two bird families in high-risk landscapes. The findings from this work provide the first data-driven evidence base to inform wildlife sampling for the monitoring of JEV circulation in outbreak hotspots in India and thus identify good preliminary targets for the development of One Health JEV surveillance.

Keywords: Japanese encephalitis; infection ecology; landscape epidemiology; vector-borne disease; wildlife-livestock-human interface.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Culicidae*
  • Disease Outbreaks / veterinary
  • Encephalitis Virus, Japanese* / genetics
  • Encephalitis, Japanese* / epidemiology
  • Encephalitis, Japanese* / veterinary
  • Humans