Fijian bats: interactions with people and disease surveillance focusing on zoonotic pathogens

Fijian bats: interactions with people and disease surveillance focusing on zoonotic pathogens

Jessica McCutchanMuseo del Jade

Jessica McCutchan, Brett Gartrell, David Hayman

Interactions between humans and bats can be both beneficial and detrimental to both parties. Habitat loss and human encroachment worldwide is known to increase wildlife-human contact. Identifying and quantifying these interactions in Fiji can help not only towards education and bat conservation, but also to improve human health if any disease is found. The first component of our research involves characterising the nature of human-bat interactions, through 200 interviews with local people across the three main islands of Fiji with known colonies of bats. In the second stage of the project, we aim to look at the zoonotic disease implications of these interactions.

Worldwide, bats are known carriers of many zoonotic pathogens and as reservoirs for emerging diseases for both livestock and human health. In Australasia, the Pacific and South-East Asia viruses from Rhabdoviridae, Paramyxoviridae, Bunyaviridae, Togaviridae, Coronaviridae families and bacteria and fungi such as Leptospira spp. and Histoplasma spp have been recovered from bat guano and urine. 180 pooled samples of guano and urine collected from three Fijian bat species with known human-bat interaction will be analysed for targeted disease surveillance via PCR.

The IUCN list includes five of the six species of bats in Fiji ranging from threatened to critically endangered. Through the study there is the opportunity to increase education surrounding bats and pathogens, discouraging detrimental human interactions and promoting conservation. With a One Health focus, this pilot study can provide baseline data for current disease status and up to date advice regarding public health information, guidelines and education.

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