2023 – 2026
South Africa, Zimbabwe
The risk of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) for human societies is real: outbreaks of avian influenza, SARS- and, MERS-CoV, Ebola viruses or yet the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2 are the most well-known recent examples of EIDs which emerged locally with a subsequent large scale geographical spread due to our increasingly interconnected world. The majority of EIDs are the result of direct or indirect cross-species transmissions from wildlife to humans. Bats and rodents are the two most diverse and widely distributed mammal orders, accounting for more than 60% of all known mammals’ species. They are natural reservoirs of numerous zoonotic viruses, which dramatically impact human and animal health worldwide. Human populations often consume or live in proximity of these small mammal species and are therefore directly or indirectly exposed by their pathogens.
However, the task ahead is still vast, especially in southern Africa. So far, most studies have been conducted in regions hit by EID epidemics, e.g., West and Central Africa, following Ebola outbreaks. Moreover, direct viral circulation between bats and rodents has been little investigated so far. Very few studies focused on the viral cross species transmission between these two orders.
It is thus crucial to understand the complex ecology and interspecies transmission of viruses within sympatric wildlife communities to better comprehend disease emergence.
The project VICTORIA aims to better understand cross-species viral transmission and risks of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) in southern Africa by exploring the circulation of three families of viruses within, but also between bats and rodents.
The specific objectives are the following:
- Characterize diversity and prevalence of potentially zoonotic Corona-, Astro- and Paramyxoviruses in bat and rodent species sharing the same habitat
- Investigate viral sharing and transmission dynamics between these two mammal species
- Assess exposure of humans, and risks of spillover
The project VICTORIA addresses the issue with a One Health perspective, involving intersectoral research (animal and public health) and using an interdisciplinary approach by combining virological, ecological, epidemiological, genetic and social science (anthropology) investigations.
In the frame of the project, three master students (3 MPhil/MSc), two in Zimbabwe (Laboratory and Social Sciences) and one in South Africa (Centre for Viral Zoonoses) will be trained. A PhD student (University of Pretoria) will be full-time involved in the project.
- French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD)
- Centre for Viral Zoonoses (CVZ), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria
- Agricultural Research Centre For International Development (CIRAD)
- Faculty of Veterinary Sciences (FVS), University of Zimbabwe
- Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), University of Zimbabwe
- Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), University of Zimbabwe
Principal Investigator : Dr. Florian Liégeois, IRD - UMR MIVEGEC
Scientific coordination :