Abstract | Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa

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Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa


Affiliation details

University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Sanaria Institute for Global Health and Tropical Medicine, United States; University of Toronto, Canada; University Health Network, Toronto, Canada; Harvard Medical School, United States; Boston Children's Hospital, United States; University of Southampton, United Kingdom; National Institutes of Health, United States; Flowminder Foundation, Sweden; Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, Canada

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a complex zoonosis that is highly virulent in humans. The largest recorded outbreak of EVD is ongoing in West Africa, outside of its previously reported and predicted niche. We assembled location data on all recorded zoonotic transmission to humans and Ebola virus infection in bats and primates (1976–2014). Using species distribution models, these occurrence data were paired with environmental covariates to predict a zoonotic transmission niche covering 22 countries across Central and West Africa. Vegetation, elevation, temperature, evapotranspiration, and suspected reservoir bat distributions define this relationship. At-risk areas are inhabited by 22 million people; however, the rarity of human outbreaks emphasises the very low probability of transmission to humans. Increasing population sizes and international connectivity by air since the first detection of EVD in 1976 suggest that the dynamics of human-to-human secondary transmission in contemporary outbreaks will be very different to those of the past.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.04395.001