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Self-spreading interventions to prevent viral spillover from bats to humans and domestic animals

A new generation of self-spreading, virally-vectored vaccines promises new opportunities to limit disease transmission within otherwise intractable wildlife sources of human and domestic animal disease. However, since sustained transmission of engineered viral vectors poses difficult to foresee biological risks, finding ‘minimally transmissible’ vaccines that are adequate for disease management goals is a major research need.

This project uses a data-rich and economically important system, vampire bat rabies in Latin America, to develop an epidemiological framework for applying virally-vectored vaccines to bats, a key wildlife reservoir for emerging viruses. We develop our framework based on two extremes in vaccine transmission: a vampire bat Betaherpesvirus, identified in our recent work as a potentially fully transmissible vector that is expected to cause a lifelong recurrent infection and an existing poxvirus vector, which spreads only from topically treated bats to untreated bats by grooming and contact and is rapidly cleared. Field experiments in wild vampire bat colonies in Peru will project the spread of viral vectors following initial release using UV powders to measure contact and Rhodamine b to measure consumption. We will estimate the prevalence of natural Betaherpesvirus and of natural poxviruses that may interfere with engineered vectors through cross-immunity and the frequency of Betaherpesvirus shedding using field monitoring and PCR. Sequencing and phylogenetic analyses of Betaherpesviruses will trace and project the potential inter-colony spread of introduced vaccines. Finally, existing mathematical models of rabies within vampire bat populations will be adapted to incorporate vaccines with varying levels of capacity for spread. This will allow us to develop strategies that target either reducing infections in livestock and humans or regional elimination of rabies from bats and to assess how release strategies depend on vaccine vector choice.

This is part of a new One Health Collaborative PhD Program between the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. Supervisors will be Daniel Streicker (Glasgow) and Amy Pedersen (Edinburgh).

PhD position
University of Glasgow & University of Edinburgh
United Kingdom
Closing date
January 21st, 2019
Posted on
December 16th, 2018 17:06
Last updated
December 16th, 2018 17:06