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Interventions in dog populations could reduce rabies in rural China

December 06, 2018

Domestic dogs play a key role in the transmission and expansion of rabies in rural areas of China, according to a study published December 6 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by Huaiyu Tian of Beijing Normal University, Hailin Zhang of the Yunnan Provincial Key Laboratory for Zoonosis Control and Prevention, Simon Dellicour of KU Leuven, and colleagues.

Despite ongoing efforts to control transmission, rabies prevention remains a challenge in many developing countries, especially in rural areas of China where re-emerging rabies is under-reported due to a lack of sustained animal surveillance. Although dogs are known to be the primary reservoir and vector of human rabies in African and Asian countries, the epidemiology of rabies virus spread in developing regions is still unclear. These uncertainties hamper improvements in disease control strategies and the evaluation of control measures. Taking advantage of detailed genomic and epidemiological data for the re-emerging rabies outbreak in Yunnan, a rural province of China, collected between 1999 and 2015, the authors reconstructed the demographic and dispersal history of the rabies virus in domestic dogs and estimated the transmission rate between dogs and from dogs to humans.

Epidemiological analyses revealed that transmission rates between dogs, as well as between dogs and humans, are lower than estimates for Africa. The reconstructed epidemic history of the rabies virus among dogs and the dynamics of rabid dogs were consistent with recorded human rabies cases. The results indicate that interventions in the dog population would be effective in reducing transmission to humans, in particular because they have the potential to subvert the self-sustaining capacity of epidemics in dogs. "We reconstruct the recent dispersal history of RABV in domestic dogs in Yunnan, a rural province of China, and estimate RABV transmission rate between dogs and from dogs to humans," notes Tian. According to the authors, a better understanding of rabies virus spread is necessary to help inform the prevention and control of human rabies in the vast rural areas of China.
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Research Article

Funding: Funding for this study was provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81673234, 41476161), http://www.nsfc.gov.cn/; the Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds KU Leuven (BOF) (No. OT/14/115), https://www.kuleuven.be/onderzoek/ondersteuning/if; the VIROGENESIS project (receiving funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement number 634650), https://www.kuleuven.be/english/research/EU/p/horizon2020/sc/sc1/Virogenesis; Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, http://www.moe.gov.cn/; National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFA0600104), http://www.most.gov.cn/; Beijing Natural Science Foundation (Beijing Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars), http://kw.beijing.gov.cn/jjb/; the China Association for Science and Technology Youth Talent Lift Project, http://www.cast.org.cn/; European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/European Research Council grant agreement number 614725-PATHPHYLODYN and under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement no. 725422-ReservoirDOCS, https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/; BV and SD were funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO, Belgium), http://www.fwo.be/ (G066215N, G0D5117N and G0B9317N); SD is also supported by the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS, Belgium). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Tian H, Feng Y, Vrancken B, Cazelles B, Tan H, Gill MS, et al. (2018) Transmission dynamics of re-emerging rabies in domestic dogs of rural China. PLoS Pathog 14(12): e1007392. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007392

Image Credit: Tian H, et al. (2018) 

Image Caption: Fig 3. Spatiotemporal diffusion of Yunnan RABV clades estimated from continuous phylogeographic reconstructions.

Author Affiliations:

State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China

Yunnan Institute of Endemic Diseases Control and Prevention, Yunnan Provincial Key Laboratory for Zoonosis Control and Prevention, Dali, China

KU Leuven, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Rega Institute, Laboratory of Evolutionary and Computational Virology, Leuven, Belgium

Institut de Biologie de l'École Normale Supérieure UMR 8197, Eco-Evolutionary Mathematics, École Normale Supérieure, France

Unité Mixte Internationnale 209, Mathematical and Computational Modeling of Complex Systems, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement et Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bondy, France

School of Biomedical Informatics, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, United States of America

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Blindern, Oslo, Norway

Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1007392

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