Vector-borne and zoonotic pathogens have comprised a significant proportion of the emerging infectious diseases in humans in recent decades. The role of many wildlife species as reservoirs for arthropod-borne viral pathogens is poorly understood. We investigated the exposure history of various African wildlife species from the Congo basin to mosquito-borne flaviviruses and alphaviruses by testing archived serum samples. Sera from 24 African forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), 34 African elephants (Loxodonta africana), 40 duikers (Cephalophus and Philantomba spp.), 25 mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx), 32 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), five Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri), two L’Hoest’s monkeys (Cercopithecus lhoesti), two golden monkeys (Cercopithecus kandti), and three chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) sampled between 1991 and 2009 were tested for antibodies against chikungunya virus (CHIKV), o’nyong-nyong virus (ONNV), West Nile virus (WNV), dengue 2 virus (DENV-2), and yellow fever virus (YFV) by plaque reduction neutralization test. Specific neutralizing antibodies against ONNV were found in African forest buffalo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Gabon, duikers in the DRC, and mandrills in Gabon, providing novel evidence of enzootic circulation of ONNV in these countries. African forest buffalo in the DRC and Gabon also demonstrated evidence of exposure to CHIKV, WNV, and DENV-2, while mandrills in Gabon were antibody positive for CHIKV, DENV-2, WNV, and YFV. All of the elephants tested had a strong neutralizing antibody response to WNV. We also document results from a survey of gorillas for arboviruses, of which 4/32 (13%) had antibody to an alphavirus or flavivirus. Overall, our results demonstrate a high prevalence of neutralizing antibodies against multiple arboviruses in wildlife in equatorial Africa.
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Vol. 49 • No. 3