The Impact of Human Conflict on the Genetics of Mastomys natalensis and Lassa Virus in West Africa - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles PLoS ONE Year : 2012

The Impact of Human Conflict on the Genetics of Mastomys natalensis and Lassa Virus in West Africa

Abstract

Environmental changes have been shown to play an important role in the emergence of new human diseases of zoonotic origin. The contribution of social factors to their spread, especially conflicts followed by mass movement of populations, has not been extensively investigated. Here we reveal the effects of civil war on the phylogeography of a zoonotic emerging infectious disease by concomitantly studying the population structure, evolution and demography of Lassa virus and its natural reservoir, the rodent Mastomys natalensis, in Guinea, West Africa. Analysis of nucleoprotein gene sequences enabled us to reconstruct the evolutionary history of Lassa virus, which appeared 750 to 900 years ago in Nigeria and only recently spread across western Africa (170 years ago). Bayesian demographic inferences revealed that both the host and the virus populations have gone recently through severe genetic bottlenecks. The timing of these events matches civil war-related mass movements of refugees and accompanying environmental degradation. Forest and habitat destruction and human predation of the natural reservoir are likely explanations for the sharp decline observed in the rodent populations, the consequent virus population decline, and the coincident increased incidence of Lassa fever in these regions. Interestingly, we were also able to detect a similar pattern in Nigeria coinciding with the Biafra war. Our findings show that anthropogenic factors may profoundly impact the population genetics of a virus and its reservoir within the context of an emerging infectious disease.
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hal-02931012 , version 1 (11-12-2020)

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Aude Lalis, Raphaël Leblois, Emilie Lecompte, Christiane Denys, Jan ter Meulen, et al.. The Impact of Human Conflict on the Genetics of Mastomys natalensis and Lassa Virus in West Africa. PLoS ONE, 2012, 7 (5), pp.e37068. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0037068⟩. ⟨hal-02931012⟩
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