OOS 13-6 - Emerging diseases and bats: Implications for conservation and ecosystem health

Tuesday, August 9, 2011: 9:50 AM
16A, Austin Convention Center
Amy S. Turmelle, Sergio Recuenco and Charles E. Rupprecht, Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA

This presentation will evaluate the disease threats facing bats in the context of a One Health concept, to highlight the interactions and connectedness of humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Within the past few decades, bats have shifted to the center of attention with regard to emerging infectious diseases, and particularly zoonotic diseases transmissible directly from wildlife to domesticated species and humans. Across the globe, interactions of humans or domesticated animals with wild populations of bats have resulted in several high consequence cases of disease emergence, including Nipah Virus Encephalitis and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Southeast Asia, and Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever in Africa. While bat-focused disease surveillance has intensified undeniably across the globe, questions remain about whether bats are more competent hosts for zoonotic diseases compared to other orders of mammals, such as rodents.  Nevertheless, heightened attention stemming from associations with infectious diseases globally presents a formidable challenge to public education and awareness about the beneficial ecosystem services of bats, and conservation of bats worldwide. In the Americas, rabies is the oldest disease associated with bats, yet the common vampire bat continues to be linked to rabies outbreaks in the Neotropics that threaten human and livestock health. Other disease threats have emerged in naïve bat populations, such as white nose syndrome (WNS) in eastern North America. This emerging mycotic infection in bats has been associated with novel precipitous declines of several affected species. Compounding this issue, non-disease threats to bat populations, such as increasing wildlife trade and consumption of bushmeat, can also increase the potential for infectious disease emergence in humans. Recent studies also forecast significant impacts of climate change on the demographics and reproductive capacity of several bat species.  However, potential impacts of climate change on the distribution and circulation of pathogens in bats remain largely unexplored.


By example, we present a case study that explores the human and agricultural interactions with bats in the context of pathogen surveillance in Latin America, to highlight mitigative strategies that encompass a One Health perspective. Such overlooked areas focus on the ecology of infectious diseases in wildlife populations and will figure heavily in the conservation biology of bats, especially those already affected by anthropogenic impacts.

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