Zoonotic diseases are a looming threat to global populations, and nearly 75% of emerging infectious diseases can spread among wildlife, domestic animals and humans. A ‘One World, One Health’ perspective offers us an ideal framework for understanding and potentially mitigating the spread of zoonoses, and the island of Madagascar serves as a natural laboratory for conducting these studies. Rapid habitat degradation and climate change on the island are contributing to more frequent contact among humans, livestock and wildlife, increasing the potential for pathogen spillover events. Given Madagascar's long geographical isolation, coupled with recent and repeated introduction of agricultural and invasive species, it is likely that a number of circulating pathogens remain uncharacterized in lemur populations. Thus, it is imperative that new approaches be implemented for de novo pathogen discovery. To this end, we used non-targeted deep sequencing of blood transcriptomes from two species of critically endangered wild lemurs (Indri indri and Propithecus diadema) to characterize blood-borne pathogens. Our results show several undescribed vector-borne parasites circulating within lemurs, some of which may cause disease in wildlife, livestock and humans. We anticipate that advanced methods for de novo identification of unknown pathogens will have broad utility for characterizing other complex disease transmission systems.
- Received October 2, 2015.
- Accepted January 5, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.