Convergence of Humans, Bats, Trees, and Culture in Nipah Virus Transmission, Bangladesh

Gurley ES, Hegde ST, Hossain K, Sazzad HMS, Hossain MJ, Rahman M, Sharker MAY, Salje H, Islam MS, Epstein JH, Khan SU, Kilpatrick AM, Daszak P, Luby SP


Preventing emergence of new zoonotic viruses depends on understanding determinants for human risk. Nipah virus (NiV) is a lethal zoonotic pathogen that has spilled over from bats into human populations, with limited person-to-person transmission. We examined ecologic and human behavioral drivers of geographic variation for risk of NiV infection in Bangladesh. We visited 60 villages during 2011-2013 where cases of infection with NiV were identified and 147 control villages. We compared case villages with control villages for most likely drivers for risk of infection, including number of bats, persons, and date palm sap trees, and human date palm sap consumption behavior. Case villages were similar to control villages in many ways, including number of bats, persons, and date palm sap trees, but had a higher proportion of households in which someone drank sap. Reducing human consumption of sap could reduce virus transmission and risk for emergence of a more highly transmissible NiV strain.

Keywords: Bangladesh; NiV; Nipah virus; bats; case–control study; convergence; culture; date palm sap; epidemiology; human behavior; humans; infections; trees; vector-borne infections; virus transmission; viruses; zoonoses.