Leptospirosis is the most common bacterial zoonoses and has been identified as an important emerging global public health problem in Southeast Asia. Rodents are important reservoirs for human leptospirosis, but epidemiological data is lacking.
Invasive rodents have been responsible for the diffusion worldwide of many zoonotic agents, thus representing major threats for public health. Cities are important hubs for people and goods exchange and are thus expected to play a pivotal role in invasive commensal rodent dissemination. Yet, data about urban rodents' ecology, especially invasive vs. native species interactions, are dramatically scarce. Here, we provide results of an extensive survey of urban rodents conducted in Niamey, Niger, depicting the early stages of rodent bioinvasions within a city. We explore the species-specific spatial distributions throughout the city using contrasted approaches, namely field sampling, co-occurrence analysis, occupancy modelling and indicator geostatistics. We show that (i) two species (i.e. rural-like vs. truly commensal) assemblages can be identified, and that (ii) within commensal rodents, invasive (Rattus rattus and Mus musculus) and native (Mastomys natalensis) species are spatially segregated. Moreover, several pieces of arguments tend to suggest that these exclusive distributions reflect an ongoing native-to-invasive species turn over. The underlying processes as well as the possible consequences for humans are discussed.
A phylogeographic study was conducted on the Nile grass rat, Arvicanthis niloticus, a rodent species that is tightly associated with open grasslands from the Sudano-Sahelian regions. Using one mitochondrial (cytochrome b) and one nuclear (intron 7 of Beta Fibrinogen) gene, robust patterns were retrieved that clearly show that (i) the species originated in East Africa concomitantly with expanding grasslands some 2 Ma, and (ii) four parapatric and genetically well-defined lineages differentiated essentially from East to West following Pleistocene bioclimatic cycles. This strongly points towards allopatric genetic divergence within savannah refuges during humid episodes, then dispersal during arid ones; secondary contact zones would have then stabilized around geographic barriers, namely, Niger River and Lake Chad basins. Our results pertinently add to those obtained for several other African rodent as well as non-rodent species that inhabit forests, humid zones, savannahs and deserts, all studies that now allow one to depict a more comprehensive picture of the Pleistocene history of the continent south of the Sahara. In particular, although their precise location remains to be determined, at least three Pleistocene refuges are identified within the West and Central African savannah biome.
Invading rodent species can harbor parasites with potential transmission to native rodents and/or humans. To investigate trypanosomes prevalence in rodents, the spleen of 76 rodents from Niger identified by their karyotype was used as a DNA source for Trypanosoma detection using a newly developed qPCR assay. Of the invasive black rat, Rattus rattus, 71% (10/14) were PCR positive as well as 6% (4/62) of native African rodents. Sequences of ~400bp of the SSU rDNA gene identified phylogenetically close Trypanosoma lineages. Trypanosoma lewisi was present in all positive black rats and the sequences displayed 100% similarity with T. lewisi-infected humans in Senegal. T. lewisi was also detected in one Acomys johannis, suggesting a possible transmission to native species. In addition to improved knowledge of Trypanosoma diversity in rodents, our data underscore the introduction of the potentially pathogenic T. lewisi kinetoplastid through the human-mediated invasion of black rats all over West Africa.
The African pygmy mouse, Mus minutoides, displays extensive Robertsonian (Rb) diversity. The two extremes of the karyotypic range are found in South Africa, with populations carrying 2n = 34 and 2n = 18. In order to reconstruct the scenario of chromosomal evolution of M. minutoides and test the performance of Rb fusions in resolving fine-scale phylogenetic relationships, we first describe new karyotypes, and then perform phylogenetic analyses by two independent methods, using respectively mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences and chromosomal rearrangements as markers. The molecular and chromosomal phylogenies were in perfect congruence, providing strong confidence both for the tree topology and the chronology of chromosomal rearrangements. The analysis supports a division of South African specimens into two clades showing opposite trends of chromosomal evolution, one containing all specimens with 34 chromosomes (karyotypic stasis) and the other grouping all mice with 18 chromosomes that have further diversified by the fixation of different Rb fusions (extensive karyotypic reshuffling). The results confirm that Rb fusions are by far the predominant rearrangement in M. minutoides but strongly suggest that recurrent whole-arm reciprocal translocations have also shaped this genome.
Arenaviruses are usually rodent-borne viruses that constitute a major threat for human health. Among them, Lassa Fever Virus (LFV) occurs in Western Africa where it infects hundreds of thousands of people annually. According to the most recent surveys, LFV is hosted by one of the multimammate rats, Mastomys natalensis, but has never been detected in its sibling and sometimes sympatric species Mastomys erythroleucus. This pattern suggests that intrinsic, i.e. genetic properties underlie such a drastic epidemiological difference (M. natalensis as a reservoir vs. M. erythroleucus as a non-reservoir species). Here we investigate genomic differences between these two closely related rodent species by focusing on three genes that have recently been described as pivotal for LFV/human cell interactions: Dystroglycan (the LFV cellular receptor), LARGE-1 and LARGE-2 (two enzymes that are essential to Dystroglycan functioning). For all three genes, sequence analyses showed that amino-acid chains undergo extremely strong purifying selective pressures, and indicated that no nucleotide (therefore no tertiary structure) change can be advocated to explain species-specific differences in LFV-cellular mediation. Nevertheless, preliminary studies of kidney-specific expression profiles suggested that important species-specific differences exist between Mastomys species. Taking into account current knowledge about LFV-human cell interactions, our results may point towards a possible role for LARGE-1 and LARGE-2 enzymes at the intracellular replication level of the virus, rather than at the LFV-host cell receptor binding step.
An understanding of the evolutionary history and dynamics of invasive species is required for the construction of predictive models of future spread and the design of biological management measures. The black rat (Rattus rattus) is a major vertebrate invader with a worldwide distribution. Despite the severe ecological, economic and health impacts of this species, its evolutionary history has been little studied. We carried out extensive specimen sampling in Senegal, West Africa, and used microsatellite markers to describe the pattern and processes of invasion in this large continental area. The genetic data obtained were combined with historical knowledge concerning the presence of this species in Senegal. Data were analysed by a combination of Bayesian clustering and approximate Bayesian computation methods. The invasion pathways closely paralleled the history of human trade routes in Senegal. In several places, we detected the occurrence of multiple introductions from genetically different sources. Long-distance migration between towns and villages was also observed. Our findings suggest that genetic bottlenecks and admixture have played a major role in shaping the genetics of invasive black rats. These two processes may generate genetic novelty and favour rapid evolution along the invasion pathways.
The Praomyini tribe is one of the most diverse and abundant groups of Old World rodents. Several species are known to be involved in crop damage and in the epidemiology of several human and cattle diseases. Due to the existence of sibling species their identification is often problematic. Thus an easy, fast and accurate species identification tool is needed for non-systematicians to correctly identify Praomyini species. In this study we compare the usefulness of three genes (16S, Cytb, CO1) for identifying species of this tribe. A total of 426 specimens representing 40 species (sampled across their geographical range) were sequenced for the three genes. Nearly all of the species included in our study are monophyletic in the neighbour joining trees. The degree of intra-specific variability tends to be lower than the divergence between species, but no barcoding gap is detected. The success rate of the statistical methods of species identification is excellent (up to 99% or 100% for statistical supervised classification methods as the k-Nearest Neighbour or Random Forest). The 16S gene is 2.5 less variable than the Cytb and CO1 genes. As a result its discriminatory power is smaller. To sum up, our results suggest that using DNA markers for identifying species in the Praomyini tribe is a largely valid approach, and that the CO1 and Cytb genes are better DNA markers than the 16S gene. Our results confirm the usefulness of statistical methods such as the Random Forest and the 1-NN methods to assign a sequence to a species, even when the number of species is relatively large. Based on our NJ trees and the distribution of all intraspecific and interspecific pairwise nucleotide distances, we highlight the presence of several potentially new species within the Praomyini tribe that should be subject to corroboration assessments.
Scrub typhus is an acute febrile zoonotic disease and worldwide more than a billion people may be at risk for infection. Orientia tsutsugamushi, the causative agent of scrub typhus, is an obligate intracellular bacterium. Rodents are reported to be the primary reservoir hosts of the disease and according to the most recent surveys, all species within the Rattus sensu lato complex of the tribe Rattini are carriers of scrub typhus. There is no evidence that any of mouse (Mus) species serves as the primary reservoir of the bacterium even when occurring in sympatry with wild infected rats. This contrast in the host/syndecan-4 interactions between Rattini and Asian Murini may be due to intrinsic (i.e., genetic) differences. Herein we compare the sequence and expression levels of syndecan-4 (the putative cell receptor of O. tsutsugamushi) between Rattini species that are known to be natural reservoirs for the typhus agents, and Murini species that are not. Although it was not possible to conclusively link the structural variations detected in syndecan-4 with carrier status in either Rattini and Murini, our findings indicate the absence of a strong Orientia-mediated selective regime acting on gene structure. In contrast, variable spleen-specific syndecan-4 expression levels show a strong correlation between under-expression of syndecan-4 in Murini and seropositive Rattini, compared to seronegative Rattini rodents. We postulate that two divergent responses may be at work in Murini and Rattini, both linked with differential expression of syndecan-4: (i) reduced syndecan-4 transcription in Murini decreases the likelihood that the host cells will become infected by the Orientia bacterium, while (ii) reduced syndecan-4 expression in seropositive Rattini limits the pathogenicity of Orientia and consequently improves the longevity of the rat hosts. These patterns may underpin the poor carrier status of wild mice on the one hand, and the effective role of wild rats as reservoir hosts on the other.
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