Two decades of one health surveillance of Nipah virus in Thailand

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Nipah virus (NiV) infection causes encephalitis and has > 75% mortality rate, making it a WHO priority pathogen due to its pandemic potential. There have been NiV outbreak(s) in Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, and southern Philippines. NiV naturally circulates among fruit bats of the genus Pteropus and has been detected widely across Southeast and South Asia. Both Malaysian and Bangladeshi NiV strains have been found in fruit bats in Thailand. This study summarizes 20 years of pre-emptive One Health surveillance of NiV in Thailand, including triangulated surveillance of bats, and humans and pigs in the vicinity of roosts inhabited by NiV-infected bats.


Samples were collected periodically and tested for NiV from bats, pigs and healthy human volunteers from Wat Luang village, Chonburi province, home to the biggest P. lylei roosts in Thailand, and other provinces since 2001. Archived cerebrospinal fluid specimens from encephalitis patients between 2001 and 2012 were also tested for NiV. NiV RNA was detected using nested reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). NiV antibodies were detected using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or multiplex microsphere immunoassay.


NiV RNA (mainly Bangladesh strain) was detected every year in fruit bats by RT-PCR from 2002 to 2020. The whole genome sequence of NiV directly sequenced from bat urine in 2017 shared 99.17% identity to NiV from a Bangladeshi patient in 2004. No NiV-specific IgG antibodies or RNA have been found in healthy volunteers, encephalitis patients, or pigs to date. During the sample collection trips, 100 community members were trained on how to live safely with bats.


High identity shared between the NiV genome from Thai bats and the Bangladeshi patient highlights the outbreak potential of NiV in Thailand. Results from NiV cross-sectoral surveillance were conveyed to national authorities and villagers which led to preventive control measures, increased surveillance of pigs and humans in vicinity of known NiV-infected roosts, and increased vigilance and reduced risk behaviors at the community level. This proactive One Health approach to NiV surveillance is a success story; that increased collaboration between the human, animal, and wildlife sectors is imperative to staying ahead of a zoonotic disease outbreak.

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