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Estimating the geographic distribution of human Tanapox and potential reservoirs using ecological niche modeling
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  • Description:
    Background

    Tanapox virus is a zoonotic infection that causes mild febrile illness and one to several nodular skin lesions. The disease is endemic in parts of Africa. The principal reservoir for the virus that causes Tanapox is unknown, but has been hypothesized to be a non-human primate. This study employs ecological niche modeling (ENM) to determine areas of tropical Africa suitable for the occurrence of human Tanapox and a list of hypothetical reservoirs. The resultant niche model will be a useful tool to guide medical surveillance activities in the region.

    Methods

    This study uses the Desktop GARP software to predict regions where human Tanapox might be expected to occur based on historical human case locations and environmental data. Additional modeling of primate species, using occurrence data from museum records was performed to determine suitable disease reservoirs.

    Results

    The final ENM predicts a potential distribution of Tanapox over much of equatorial Africa, exceeding the borders of Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where it has been historically reported. Five genera of non-human primates were found to be potential reservoir taxa.

    Conclusions

    Validity testing suggests the model created here is robust (p < 0.04). Several genera of primates were identified as having ENMs overlapping with that of Tanapox and are suggested as potential reservoirs, mainly members of the Genus Cercopithecus. The ENM modeling technique has several limitations and results should be interpreted with caution. This study may increase knowledge and engage further research in this neglected disease.

    Electronic supplementary material

    The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1476-072X-13-34) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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