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PeerJ. 2018 Nov 28;6:e5979. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5979. eCollection 2018.

Taxonomic patterns in the zoonotic potential of mammalian viruses.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA.
2
Ecohealth Alliance, New York, NY, USA.
3
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Hamilton, MT, USA.

Abstract

Predicting and simplifying which pathogens may spill over from animals to humans is a major priority in infectious disease biology. Many efforts to determine which viruses are at risk of spillover use a subset of viral traits to find trait-based associations with spillover. We adapt a new method-phylofactorization-to identify not traits but lineages of viruses at risk of spilling over. Phylofactorization is used to partition the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses viral taxonomy based on non-human host range of viruses and whether there exists evidence the viruses have infected humans. We identify clades on a range of taxonomic levels with high or low propensities to spillover, thereby simplifying the classification of zoonotic potential of mammalian viruses. Phylofactorization by whether a virus is zoonotic yields many disjoint clades of viruses containing few to no representatives that have spilled over to humans. Phylofactorization by non-human host breadth yields several clades with significantly higher host breadth. We connect the phylogenetic factors above with life-histories of clades, revisit trait-based analyses, and illustrate how cladistic coarse-graining of zoonotic potential can refine trait-based analyses by illuminating clade-specific determinants of spillover risk.

KEYWORDS:

Epidemiology; Phylofactorization; Spillover; Viruses; Zoonosis

Conflict of interest statement

Kevin J. Olival is employed by EcoHealth Alliance New York.

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