Bats are suspected, although not proved, to have been the origin of multiple human diseases, including Ebola and rabies. New maps show the hot spots where outbreaks are most likely to occur, and which diseases are most likely to be transmitted from bats to humans. One of those is the region of the devastating 2014 Ebola outbreak.
University College London, the Zoological Society of London, and the University of Edinburgh have put together these new maps based on more than century of information published between 1900 and 2013. As described in The American Naturalist, the major risk factors include “pathogen richness” (number of viruses carried by bats), and “transmission opportunity”, areas in which humans and bats frequently come in contact due to hunting.
The map above shows which types of viruses are prevalent in each area. The viruses range from Filoviridae (including the dreaded Ebola) to Flaviviridae (which includes Yellow Fever), and the relatively harmless Reovirus, which can cause severe diarrhoea, particularly in young children.
The researchers hope that these maps, and the factors that were used to create them, will help health monitoring networks catch other outbreaks early, or perhaps even prevent them.