Journey to Cambodia (3/3)

Day 3 - ABM workshop in Cambodia

On the 13th of December (2023), MERFI organised a workshop where Alex Smajgl presented the draft ABM model and its interface. The presentation was followed by a discussion.

Journey to Cambodia (3/3)

The ABM model integrates the BCOMING outputs for different sites in Guadeloupe, Guinea and Cambodia using the same method. The model aims to simulate spillover events and visualises the risks to allow communities to develop strategies to mitigate zoonotic risks. It includes households as agent types with their diets, transmission pathways, livelihoods. Lots of the data comes from the household surveys. The model also considers bats as major carriers and bridge species such as monkeys, cattle, civets, domestic cats, and lesser rice field rats. The model takes into account various dimensions such as the probability of a species being in a certain area, the likelihood of a bat being infected, and the probability of human interference in the area. The model still has gaps, and one question is whether this can be filled with existing literature or through the Work Packages (WPs).

Julia presented the findings of a sampling they did in Stung Teng cave. During Julia's presentation, it was observed that there were SARS COV 2 like infections in bats in Stung Treng (9 out of 867), in the cave they were sampling, as shown by the data. Alex questioned how he could work with this data if the value was almost zero. It seems that there is a very low risk of transmission from bats to humans, at least in Cambodia. So one question is how to visualise an event which very rarely happens.


Fig.1: ABM workshop in Cambodia


It was decided that the species considered in the model will be reduced to wildlife (e.g. civets), peridomestic (e.g. rats, cats), domestic animals (cattle), and bats. Different scenarios will be shown, mainly focusing on surveillance schemes, which will support the community-level co-design process.

It was decided to distinguish between infection events and transmission events. Infection events are situations in which humans get infected but don’t get sick or at least don’t infect other humans. Transmission events are actual outbreaks involving human-to-human transmission. It was decided after lengthy discussions based on a handful of studies that infection events will need to occur on average (!) every 2 years while outbreaks with human-to-human transmission would occur every 20 years.

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