Journey to Cambodia (2/3)

Day 2 - Cherie's findings on optimising zoonotic virus surveillance in bats

On the 12th of December (2023), Cherie presented the findings of her first year's research on optimising zoonotic virus surveillance in bats with mechanistic models. For this, she used data collected by Julien and his team over four years in collaboration with IPC. Recognising the potential transmission of various viruses from bats to humans, Cherie emphasised the importance of bat surveillance.

Journey to Cambodia (2/3)

Cherie introduced different methods of bat sampling to gather data, including invasive techniques such as rectal swabs, saliva swabs, and blood sampling, which are costly and labour-intensive. In contrast, non-invasive techniques such as guano collection are more cost-effective but provide less data.

It's essential to find a methodology for surveillance that maximises results and minimises costs. This is where models come into the picture. Cherie's Ph.D. focuses on mechanistic compartmental models that describe processes over time using mathematical relationships. Models can be calibrated to field data using Bayesian techniques. Outputs can include uncertainty estimates in biological parameters and trajectories.


Fig.1: Cherie Yu presents her findings


One of the key questions is whether the seasonality in bat reproduction can predict the dynamics of coronaviruses. Existing research suggests that the dynamics of bat-borne viruses are significantly influenced by bat ecology. Reports indicate that there is seasonal viral shedding and infection among bats. Synchronised births in bats create favourable conditions for viral transmission, as the influx of naïve juveniles amplifies circulation, and the waning of maternal antibodies contributes to an infectious peak.

Cherie will continue fine-tuning her model, and as the results from the BCOMING project become available, she will integrate them into the model.

Posted on
Project - Main cambodia

Read more blog post

BCOMING - Bats ectoparasites study

The BCOMING project aims to conduct a thorough evaluation of biodiversity across various anthropogenic gradients and scales. In Cambodia, the scientific team is focusing on the bat interface as a key component, not only to assess zoonotic risk but also to understand broader ecological dynamics. Among the features being evaluated are the communities of bats' ectoparasites, which play important roles in bats’ ecosystem health and disease transmission dynamics between them. Bats harbor a diverse array of ectoparasites, including fleas, flies, ticks, and mites for examples, and are an integral part to the intricate relationships between them, their hosts, and the environment. Despite being often overlooked, these ectoparasites appear to be essential ecological components and can serve as indicators of ecosystem health. While poorly understood, these ectoparasites, through occasional changes of host, could facilitate the transmission of infectious diseases within bat colonies. Two families, Streblidae and Nycteribiidae, stand out for their unique adaptations and behaviors within the bat ecosystem.

Read more

Bridging the Gap

Mammals, a vital component of terrestrial ecosystems, are facing drastic declines due to anthropogenic changes in landscapes. With many species secluded in protected areas and facing extreme conservation status, there is a growing need for rapid, cost-effective, and noninvasive methods to monitor their populations. Within BCOMING, it is important that we use the most accurate techniques to establish biodiversity assessment as it is a core component in our research on pathogen circulation. Our team at Université de Liège in Belgium, consisting of Dr Pauline van Leeuwen and Prof. Johan Michaux, delves into the scientific literature for non-invasive methods to detect mammalian species in the field. They published the first scientific article supported by the BCOMING consortium. This study compares conventional survey methods and the emerging environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding technique for mammal biodiversity assessment.

Read more

Unraveling Cambodia's biodiversity tapestry

In the heart of Southeast Asia lies Cambodia, a country teeming with biodiversity that has long captivated the imaginations of scientists and conservationists alike. Nestled within this rich tapestry of ecosystems, a dedicated research team from Université de Liège embarks on an exciting journey to unravel the mysteries of Cambodia's wildlife microbiome at the human-animal interface. Our team at Université de Liège in Belgium, consisting of Dr Pauline van Leeuwen and Prof. Johan Michaux, is leading the microbiome component of the BCOMING project. We aim to improve our knowledge of the influence of biodiversity and on microbiomes structure and zoonotic risks.
Read more