Evidence for henipavirus spillover into human populations in Africa.
Pernet O., Schneider BS., Beaty SM., LeBreton M., Yun TE., Park A., Zachariah TT., Bowden TA., Hitchens P., Ramirez CM., Daszak P., Mazet J., Freiberg AN., Wolfe ND., Lee B.
Zoonotic transmission of lethal henipaviruses (HNVs) from their natural fruit bat reservoirs to humans has only been reported in Australia and South/Southeast Asia. However, a recent study discovered numerous HNV clades in African bat samples. To determine the potential for HNV spillover events among humans in Africa, here we examine well-curated sets of bat (Eidolon helvum, n = 44) and human (n = 497) serum samples from Cameroon for Nipah virus (NiV) cross-neutralizing antibodies (NiV-X-Nabs). Using a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-based pseudoparticle seroneutralization assay, we detect NiV-X-Nabs in 48% and 3-4% of the bat and human samples, respectively. Seropositive human samples are found almost exclusively in individuals who reported butchering bats for bushmeat. Seropositive human sera also neutralize Hendra virus and Gh-M74a (an African HNV) pseudoparticles, as well as live NiV. Butchering bat meat and living in areas undergoing deforestation are the most significant risk factors associated with seropositivity. Evidence for HNV spillover events warrants increased surveillance efforts.