A preliminary ecological profile of Kyasanur Forest disease virus hosts among the mammalian wildlife of the Western Ghats, India
Kyasanur Forest disease (KFD) is one of India's severe arboviruses capable of causing prolonged debilitating disease. It has been expanding beyond its historical endemic locus at an alarming rate over the last two decades. The natural nidus of this zoonosis is located in the monsoon rainforest of the Western Ghats, India, which is one of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots. Definitive reservoir hosts for KFD virus (KFDV) have yet to be delineated, and thus much of the infection
... f the infection ecology of this virus, and its consequent transmission dynamics, remains uncertain. Given its unique biogeographical context, identifying ecological parameters of KFDV relevant to the virus' epidemiology has been complex and challenging. The challenge has been exacerbated by diminished research efforts in wildlife surveillance over the last two decades, coinciding with the expansion of the range of KFD across the region. The current investigation sought to define a preliminary ecological profile of KFDV hosts based on their life history and feeding traits to aid in re-establishing targeted wildlife surveillance and to discern those ecological traits of wildlife hosts that may improve our understanding of KFD epidemiology. The importance of fast-living among KFDV hosts was of special interest with respect to the latter aim. We compared mammalian traits between host and non-host species using general additive models and phylogenetic generalised linear models. This study found that both body mass and forest forage were strongly associated with mammalian host infection status, but that reproductive life history traits were not. These findings will help in structuring ecologically based wildlife surveillance and field investigations, while also helping to parameterise novel epidemiological models of zoonotic infection risk that incorporate species functional traits in a region where biogeography, landscape ecology, and community ecology manifest extraordinary complexity, particularly under growing anthropogenic pressure.