01.03.20 → 28.02.23

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Pangolin in DR Congo. (Photo: Nicolas Laurent, RBINS)

Biodiversity changes in African forests and emerging infectious diseases

Biodiversity in Afrotropical forests is declining dramatically due to deforestation and bushmeat trade. Simultaneously, there is an increased frequency of outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) with a natural reservoir in wild small mammals. The effect of biodiversity changes on the risk of spillover of these EIDs to humans is not yet clear. Higher biodiversity may reduce transmission rates in the small mammal community or may facilitate it. Biodiversity changes may also be associated with changes in human behaviour that affect contact rates with wildlife.

BIODIV-AFREID explores these relations in different forest sites in DR Congo and Côte d'Ivoire. We will investigate a range of viral pathogens with a focus on three contrasting EIDs of major concern: Monkeypox virus, Ebola virus, and Coronavirus.

In areas where these EIDs have been reported before, we will select sites with differences in forest degradation and bushmeat hunting, describe the biodiversity of small mammal communities, and the presence and prevalence of the viruses in these communities. The work is based on newly collected material and considerable amounts of samples that partners collected during earlier fieldwork. We will test hypotheses about dilution and amplification effects and about the ecological and anthropological conditions facilitating spillover to humans. We strive to better understand the relations between biodiversity and the emergence of new infectious and gain insights to form a basis for more targeted conservation and public health strategies.

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2018-2019 BiodivERsA

Internal members

  • Erik Verheyen
  • Nicolas Laurent

Other members

  • Prof. Herwig LEIRS, Principal Investigator - Evolutionary Ecology Group – University of Antwerp – Antwerp – Belgium
  • Prof. Guy Crispin GEMBU, Principal Investigator - Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité – University of Kisangani – Kisangani – DR Congo
  • Dr. Jean-Jacques MUYEMBE, Principal Investigator - National Biomedical Research Institute – Kinshasa – DR Congo
  • Martine PEETERS, Principal Investigator - Translational researches on VIH and infectious diseases (TransVIHMI) – IRD/ University of Montpellier/Inserm– Montpellier – France
  • Dr. Fabian LEENDERTZ, Principal Investigator - Epidemiology of highly pathogenic microorgansims – Robert Koch Institute – Berlin – Germany
  • Emmanuel COUACY-HYMMAN, Principal Investigator - OneHealth for all – Bingerville – Ivory Coast

Research team