Henipaviruses at the Interface Between Bats, Livestock and Human Population in Africa.Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2019 07; 19(7):455-465.VB
Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV) are closely related members within the genus Henipavirus, family Paramyxoviridae, for which fruit bats serve as the reservoir. The initial emergence of NiV infections in pigs and humans in Malaysia, and HeV infections in horses and humans in Australia, posed severe impacts on human and animal health, and continues threatening lives of humans and livestock within Southeast Asia and Australia. Recently, henipavirus-specific antibodies have also been detected in fruit bats in a number of sub-Saharan African countries and in Brazil, thereby considerably increasing the known geographic distribution of henipaviruses. Africa is progressively being recognized as a new high prevalence zone for henipaviruses, as deduced from serological and molecular evidence of past infections in Madagascar, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Gulf of Guinea, Zambia, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Nigeria lately. Serological data suggest henipavirus spillover from bats to livestock and human populations in Africa without reported clinical disease in any of these species. All virus isolation attempts have been abortive, highlighting the need for further investigations. The genome of the Ghanaian bat henipavirus designated Ghana virus (GhV), which was detected in a pteropid Eidolon helvum bat, is the only African henipavirus that has been completely sequenced limiting our current knowledge on the genetic diversity and pathogenesis of African henipaviruses. In this review, we summarize the available data on the circulation of henipaviruses in Africa, discuss potential sources for virus spillover, and highlight existing research gaps.