BUSHRISK – Tracking the bushmeat: a molecular framework for tracing the African bushmeat trade and risks of emerging diseases

Project coordinator (2018-2021)
Funding: FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) – Projetos de Investigação Científica e Desenvolvimento Tecnológico (IC&DT) – 02/SAICT/2017
Project ID: n.º 032130

The unsustainable harvesting of wildlife has a direct impact on ecosystem services since habitat degradation and faunal depletion are linked to the propagation of emerging diseases in human populations. In Africa, bushmeat consumption is prevalent and has been at the origin of major pandemics. In Europe, millions of tons of bushmeat illegally enter through domestic flights each year, broadening the risks of zoonotic spread to northern countries. So far, health watches targeting the issue of zoonotic emerging diseases have suffered from the absence of fine scale characterization of the bushmeat species, smoked and processed meat challenging the recognition of carcasses.

BUSHRISK assesses the link between wildlife depletion and emerging diseases in the context of the molecular tracing of the African bushmeat trade. We use high-throughput sequencing to provide a fine-scale assessment of the diversity of host (mammals) and pathogens along the local-to-global bushmeat network, relying on the design of turnkey molecular tools and the exploratory use of macro-ecology approaches.

BUSHRISK sets up an original, integrative framework linking biodiversity and health watch through the molecular biogeography of both bushmeat species and their pathobiomes. Deliverables include molecular-based turnkey tools usable by customs and national bodies involved in the bushmeat trade survey for a real-time assessment of the bushmeat diversity and pathobiomes in Africa and Europe.

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