Selective deforestation and exposure of African wildlife to bat-borne viruses

Pawel Fedurek, Caroline Asiimwe, Gregory K. Rice, Walter J. Akankwasa, Vernon Reynolds, Catherine Hobaiter, Robert Kityo, Geoffrey Muhanguzi, Klaus Zuberbühler, Catherine Crockford, Regina Z. Cer, Andrew J. Bennett, Jessica M. Rothman, Kimberly A. Bishop-Lilly, Tony L. Goldberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Proposed mechanisms of zoonotic virus spillover often posit that wildlife transmission and amplification precede human outbreaks. Between 2006 and 2012, the palm Raphia farinifera, a rich source of dietary minerals for wildlife, was nearly extirpated from Budongo Forest, Uganda. Since then, chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus, and red duiker were observed feeding on bat guano, a behavior not previously observed. Here we show that guano consumption may be a response to dietary mineral scarcity and may expose wildlife to bat-borne viruses. Videos from 2017–2019 recorded 839 instances of guano consumption by the aforementioned species. Nutritional analysis of the guano revealed high concentrations of sodium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Metagenomic analyses of the guano identified 27 eukaryotic viruses, including a novel betacoronavirus. Our findings illustrate how “upstream” drivers such as socioeconomics and resource extraction can initiate elaborate chains of causation, ultimately increasing virus spillover risk.
Original languageEnglish
Article number470
Number of pages7
JournalCommunications Biology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2024


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