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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Population fluctuations and synanthropy explain transmission risk in rodent-borne zoonoses

Ecke, Frauke; Han, Barbara A.; Hornfeldt, Birger; Khalil, Hussein; Magnusson, Magnus; Singh, Navinder J.; Ostfeld, Richard S.

Abstract

Population fluctuations are widespread across the animal kingdom, especially in the order Rodentia, which includes many globally important reservoir species for zoonotic pathogens. The implications of these fluctuations for zoonotic spillover remain poorly understood. Here, we report a global empirical analysis of data describing the linkages between habitat use, population fluctuations and zoonotic reservoir status in rodents. Our quantitative synthesis is based on data collated from papers and databases. We show that themagnitude of population fluctuations combined with species' synanthropy and degree of human exploitation together distinguishmost rodent reservoirs at a global scale, a result that was consistent across all pathogen types and pathogen transmission modes. Our spatial analyses identified hotspots of high transmission risk, including regions where reservoir species dominate the rodent community. Beyond rodents, these generalities inform our understanding of how natural and anthropogenic factors interact to increase the risk of zoonotic spillover in a rapidly changing world.

Published in

Nature Communications
2022, Volume: 13, number: 1, article number: 7532