Mechanisms of inter-epidemic maintenance of Rift Valley fever phlebovirus : Invited Review
Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) is an arthropod-borne virus that has caused substantial epidemics throughout Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula. The virus can cause severe disease in livestock and humans and therefore the control and prevention of viral outbreaks is of utmost importance. The epidemiology of RVFV has some particular characteristics. Unexpected and significant epidemics have been observed in spatially and temporally divergent patterns across the African continent. Sudden epidemics in previously unaffected areas are followed by periods of long-term apparent absence of virus and sudden, unpredictable reoccurrence in disparate regions. Therefore, the elucidation of underlying mechanisms of viral maintenance is one of the largest gaps in the knowledge of RVFV ecology. It remains unknown whether the virus needs to be reintroduced before RVFV outbreaks can occur, or if unperceived viral circulation in local vertebrates or mosquitoes is sufficient for maintenance of the virus. To gain insight into these knowledge gaps, we here review existing data that describe potential mechanisms of RVFV maintenance, as well as molecular and serological studies in endemic and non-endemic areas that provide evidence of an inter- or pre-epidemic virus presence. Basic and country-specific mechanisms of RVFV introduction into non-endemic countries are summarized and an overview of studies using mathematical modeling of RVFV persistence is given.