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27 Feb 2023
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African army ants at the forefront of virome surveillance in a remote tropical forest

A groundbreaking study using ants revealed a spectacular diversity of viruses in hardly accessible ecosystems like tropical forests

Recommended by based on reviews by Mart Krupovic and 1 anonymous reviewer

Deciphering the virome (the set or assemblage of viruses) of the Earth, from individual organisms to entire ecosystems, has become a key priority. The first step to better understanding the impact of viruses on the ecology and functions of ecosystems is to describe their diversity. Such knowledge opens the gates to a better assessment of global nutrient cycling or of the threat that viruses represent to individual health. This explains the increasing number of pioneering studies that are currently sequencing the complete or partial genome of thousands of new viruses [1].

In their exciting study, Fritz and collaborators [2], authors sampled 209 army ants (Genus Dorylus) to investigate the virus diversity in dense forests that researchers cannot easily access. Indeed, these ants live in colonies (21 were sampled) that can move 1 km per day, covering a significant area and attacking many invertebrate and vertebrate preys.  Each sample was sequenced by a protocol called VANA sequencing and allowing the enrichment of the sample in viral sequences [3], so improving the detection of viruses present at low abundance in the ant (and more specifically in its gut for viruses infecting preys). 

Around 45,000 contigs presented homologies with bacterial, plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate infecting viruses. Half could be assigned to 56 families and 157 genera of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Beyond this amazing harvest of new and known virus sequences using an original methodology, the results significantly improve the current frontiers of known viral taxonomy and diversity and raise exciting research tracks to expand them. 

As a preprint, several blogs or news of leading scientists and journals have already highlighted this study. For example, in the news section of Science magazine, Jon Cohen underlined the originality of the approach for virus hunting on Earth with the title “Armed with air samplers, rope tricks, and—yes—ants, virus hunters spot threats in new ways”[4]. Another example is the mention of the publication by Elisabeth Bik in her Microbiome Digest: she wrote, “An amazing read is a fresh preprint from Fritz and collaborator describing an exciting method of sampling in difficult-to-reach environments“ [5].

The paper from Fritz et al [2] thus represents a significant advance in virus ecology, as already recognized by early readers, and this is why I strongly recommend its publication in PCI Infections.


1. Edgar RC, Taylor J, Lin V, Altman T, Barbera P, Meleshko D, Lohr D, Novakovsky G, Buchfink B, Al-Shayeb B, Banfield JF, de la Peña M, Korobeynikov A, Chikhi R, Babaian A (2022) Petabase-scale sequence alignment catalyses viral discovery. Nature, 602, 142–147.

2. Fritz M, Reggiardo B, Filloux D, Claude L, Fernandez E, Mahé F, Kraberger S, Custer JM, Becquart P, Mebaley TN, Kombila LB, Lenguiya LH, Boundenga L, Mombo IM, Maganga GD, Niama FR, Koumba J-S, Ogliastro M, Yvon M, Martin DP, Blanc S, Varsani A, Leroy E, Roumagnac P (2023) African army ants at the forefront of virome surveillance in a remote tropical forest. bioRxiv, 2022.12.13.520061, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Infections.

3. François S, Filloux D, Fernandez E, Ogliastro M, Roumagnac P (2018) Viral Metagenomics Approaches for High-Resolution Screening of Multiplexed Arthropod and Plant Viral Communities. In: Viral Metagenomics: Methods and Protocols Methods in Molecular Biology. (eds Pantaleo V, Chiumenti M), pp. 77–95. Springer, New York, NY.

4. Cohen J (2023) Virus hunters test new surveillance tools. Science, 379, 16–17.

5. Ponsero A (2023) February 18th, 2023. Microbiome Digest - Bik’s Picks.

African army ants at the forefront of virome surveillance in a remote tropical forestMatthieu Fritz, Berenice Reggiardo, Denis Filloux, Lisa Claude, Emmanuel Fernandez, Frederic Mahe, Simona Kraberger, Joy M. Custer, Pierre Becquart, Telstar Ndong Mebaley, Linda Bohou Kombila, Leadisaelle H. Lenguiya, Larson Boundenga, Illich M. M...<p style="text-align: justify;">In this study, we used a predator-enabled metagenomics strategy to sample the virome of a remote and difficult-to-access densely forested African tropical region. Specifically, we focused our study on the use of arm...Ecohealth, Ecology of hosts, infectious agents, or vectors, One Health, Reservoirs, VirusesSebastien Massart2022-12-14 11:57:40 View
07 Oct 2022
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Guidelines for the reliable use of high throughput sequencing technologies to detect plant pathogens and pests

High-throughput sequencing for the diagnostic of plant pathologies and identification of pests: recommendations and challenges

Recommended by based on reviews by Denise Altenbach and David Roquis

High-throughput sequencing (HTS) has revealed an incredible diversity of microorganisms in ecosystems and is also changing the monitoring of macroorganism biodiversity (Deiner et al. 2017; Piper et al. 2019).  

The diagnostic of plant pathogens and the identification of pests is gradually integrating the use of these techniques, but there are still obstacles. Most of them are related to the reliability of these analyses, which have long been considered insufficient because of their dependence on a succession of sophisticated operations involving parameters that are sometimes difficult to adapt to complex matrices or certain diagnostic contexts. The need to validate HTS approaches is gradually being highlighted in recent work but remains poorly documented (Bester et al. 2022).

In this paper, a large community of experts presents and discusses the key steps for optimal control of HTS performance and reliability in a diagnostic context (Massart et al. 2022). It also addresses the issue of costs. The article provides recommendations that closely combine the quality control requirements commonly used in conventional diagnostics with newer or HTS-specific control elements and concepts that are not yet widely used. It discusses the value of these for the use of the various techniques currently covered by the terms "High Throughput Sequencing" in diagnostic activities. The elements presented are intended to limit false positive or false negative results but will also optimise the interpretation of contentious results close to the limits of analytical sensitivity or unexpected results, both of which appear to be frequent when using HTS.

Furthermore, the need for risk analysis, verification and validation of methods is well illustrated with numerous examples for each of the steps considered crucial to ensure reliable use of HTS. The clear contextualisation of the proposals made by the authors complements and clarifies the need for user expertise according to the experimental objectives. Some unanswered questions that will require further development and validation are also presented.

This article should benefit a large audience including researchers with some level of expertise in HTS but unfamiliar with the recent concepts of controls common in the diagnostic world as well as scientists with strong diagnostic expertise but less at ease with the numerous and complex procedures associated with HTS.


Bester R, Steyn C, Breytenbach JHJ, de Bruyn R, Cook G, Maree HJ (2022) Reproducibility and Sensitivity of High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS)-Based Detection of Citrus Tristeza Virus and Three Citrus Viroids. Plants, 11, 1939.

Deiner K, Bik HM, Mächler E, Seymour M, Lacoursière-Roussel A, Altermatt F, Creer S, Bista I, Lodge DM, de Vere N, Pfrender ME, Bernatchez L (2017) Environmental DNA metabarcoding: Transforming how we survey animal and plant communities. Molecular Ecology, 26, 5872–5895.

Massart, S et al. (2022) Guidelines for the reliable use of high throughput sequencing technologies to detect plant pathogens and pests. Zenodo, 6637519, ver. 3  peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Infections.

Piper AM, Batovska J, Cogan NOI, Weiss J, Cunningham JP, Rodoni BC, Blacket MJ (2019) Prospects and challenges of implementing DNA metabarcoding for high-throughput insect surveillance. GigaScience, 8, giz092.

Guidelines for the reliable use of high throughput sequencing technologies to detect plant pathogens and pestsS. Massart, I. Adams, M. Al Rwahnih, S. Baeyen, G. J. Bilodeau, A. G. Blouin, N. Boonham, T. Candresse, A. Chandelier, K. De Jonghe, A. Fox, Y.Z.A. Gaafar, P. Gentit, A. Haegeman, W. Ho, O. Hurtado-Gonzales, W. Jonkers, J. Kreuze, D. Kutjnak, B. B...<p style="text-align: justify;">High-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies have the potential to become one of the most significant advances in molecular diagnostics. Their use by researchers to detect and characterize plant pathogens and pests...Diagnosis, Pest management, Phytopathology, Plant diseasesOlivier Schumpp2022-06-13 11:26:18 View
25 Apr 2023
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The distribution, phenology, host range and pathogen prevalence of Ixodes ricinus in France: a systematic map and narrative review

An extensive review of Ixodes ricinus in European France

Recommended by based on reviews by Ana Palomar and 1 anonymous reviewer

Ticks are obligate, bloodsucking, nonpermanent ectoparasitic arthropods. Among them, Ixodes ricinus is a classic example of an extreme generalist tick, presenting a highly permissive feeding behavior using different groups of vertebrates as hosts, such as mammalian (including humans), avian and reptilian species (Hoogstraal & Aeschlimann, 1982; Dantas-Torresa & Otranto, 2013). This ecological adaptation can account for the broad geographical distribution of I. ricinus populations, which extends from the western end of the European continent to the Ural Mountains in Russia, and from northern Norway to the Mediterranean basin, including the North African countries - Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia ( The contact with different hosts also promotes the exposure/acquisition and transmission of various pathogenic agents (viruses, bacteriae, protists and nematodes) of veterinary and medical relevance (Aeschlimann et al., 1979). As one of the prime ticks found on humans, this species is implicated in diseases such as Lyme borreliosis, Spotted Fever Group rickettsiosis, Human Anaplasmosis, Human Babesiosis and Tick-borne Encephalitis (Velez et al., 2023). 

The climate change projections drawn for I. ricinus, in the scenario of global warming, point for the expansion/increase activity in both latitude and altitude (Medlock et al., 2013). The adequacy of vector modeling is relaying in the proper characterization of complex biological systems. Thus, it is essential to increase knowledge on I. ricinus, focusing on aspects such as genetic background, ecology and eco-epidemiology on a microscale but also at a country and region level, due to possible local adaptations of tick populations and genetic drift. 

In the present systematic revision, Perez et al. (2023) combine old and recently published data (mostly up to 2020) regarding I. ricinus distribution, phenology, host range and pathogen association in continental France and Corsica Island. Based on a keyword search of peer-reviewed papers on seven databases, as well as other sources of grey literature (mostly, thesis), the authors have synthesized information on: 1) Host parasitism to detect potential differences in host use comparing to other areas in Europe; 2) The spatiotemporal distribution of I. ricinus, to identify possible geographic trends in tick density, variation in activity patterns and the influence of environmental factors; 3) Tick-borne pathogens detected in this species, to better assess their spatial distribution and variation in exposure risk. 

As pointed out by both reviewers, this work clearly summarizes the information regarding I. ricinus and associated microorganisms from European France. This review also identifies remaining knowledge gaps, providing a comparable basis to orient future research. This is why I chose to recommend Perez et al (2023)'s preprint for Peer Community Infections. 


Aeschlimann, A., Burgdorfer, W., Matile, H., Peter, O., Wyler, R. (1979) Aspects nouveaux du rôle de vecteur joué par Ixodes ricinus L. en Suisse. Acta Tropica, 36, 181-191.

Dantas-Torresa, F., Otranto, D. (2013) Seasonal dynamics of Ixodes ricinus on ground level and higher vegetation in a preserved wooded area in southern Europe. Veterinary Parasitology, 192, 253- 258.

Hoogstraal, H., Aeschlimann, A. (1982) Tick-host specificity. Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gesellschaft, 55, 5-32.

Medlock, J.M., Hansford, K.M., Bormane, A., Derdakova, M., Estrada-Peña, A., George, J.C., Golovljova, I., Jaenson, T.G.T., Jensen, J.K., Jensen, P.M., Kazimirova, M., Oteo, J.A., Papa, A., Pfister, K., Plantard, O., Randolph, S.E., Rizzoli, A., Santos-Silva, M.M., Sprong, H., Vial, L., Hendrickx, G., Zeller, H., Van Bortel, W. (2013) Driving forces for changes in geographical distribution of Ixodes ricinus ticks in Europe. Parasites and Vectors, 6.

Perez, G., Bournez, L., Boulanger, N., Fite, J., Livoreil, B., McCoy, K., Quillery, E., René-Martellet, M., Bonnet, S. (2023) The distribution, phenology, host range and pathogen prevalence of Ixodes ricinus in France: a systematic map and narrative review. bioRxiv, ver. 1 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Infections.

Velez, R., De Meeûs, T., Beati, L., Younsi, H., Zhioua, E., Antunes, S., Domingos, A., Ataíde Sampaio, D., Carpinteiro, D., Moerbeck, L., Estrada-Peña, A., Santos-Silva, M.M., Santos, A.S. (2023) Development and testing of microsatellite loci for the study of population genetics of Ixodes ricinus Linnaeus, 1758 and Ixodes inopinatus Estrada-Peña, Nava & Petney, 2014 (Acari: Ixodidae) in the western Mediterranean region. Acarologia, 63, 356-372.

The distribution, phenology, host range and pathogen prevalence of *Ixodes ricinus* in France: a systematic map and narrative reviewGrégoire Perez, Laure Bournez, Nathalie Boulanger, Johanna Fite, Barbara Livoreil, Karen D. McCoy, Elsa Quillery, Magalie René-Martellet, and Sarah I. Bonnet<p style="text-align: justify;">The tick <em>Ixodes ricinus</em> is the most important vector species of infectious diseases in European France. Understanding its distribution, phenology, and host species use, along with the distribution and preva...Animal diseases, Behaviour of hosts, infectious agents, or vectors, Disease Ecology/Evolution, Ecohealth, Ecology of hosts, infectious agents, or vectors, Epidemiology, Geography of infectious diseases, Interactions between hosts and infectious ag...Ana Sofia Santos2022-12-06 14:52:44 View
17 Jan 2024
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Assessing the dynamics of Mycobacterium bovis infection in three French badger populations

From disease surveillance to public action. Re-inforcing both epidemiological surveillance and data analysis: an illustration with Mycobacterium bovis

Recommended by based on reviews by Rowland Kao and 1 anonymous reviewer

Mycobacterium bovis, also called M. tuberculosis var. bovis, is a bacterium belonging to the M. tuberculosis complex (i.e., MTBC) and which can cause through zoonotic transmission another form of human tuberculosis (Tb). It is above all the agent of bovine tuberculosis (i.e., bTb) which affects not only cattle (wild or farmed) but also a large diversity of other wild mammals worldwide. An increasing number of infected animal cases are being discovered in many regions of the world, thus raising the problem of tuberculosis transmission, including to humans, more complex than previously thought. Efforts have been made in terms of vaccination or culling of populations of host carrier species, such as the badger for example, however leading to consequences of greater dispersion of the infectious agent. M. bovis shows a more or less significant capacity to persist outside its hosts, particularly in the environment under certain abiotic and biotic conditions. This bacillus can be transmitted and spread in many ways, including through aerosol, mucus and sputum, urine and feces, by direct contact with infected animals, their dead bodies or rather via their excreta or by inhalation of aerosols, depending on the host species concerned.

In this paper, Calenge and his collaborators (Callenge et al. 2024) benefited from a national surveillance program on M. bovis cases in wild species, set up in 2011 in France, i.e., Sylvatub, for detecting and monitoring M. bovis infection in European badger (Meles meles) populations. Sylvatub is a participatory program involving both national and local stakeholder systems in order to determine changes in bTb infection levels in domestic and wild animal species. This original work had two aims: to describe spatial disease dynamics in the three clusters under scrutiny using a complex Bayesian model; and to develop indicators for the monitoring of the M. bovis infection by stakeholders and decision-makers of the program. This paper is timely and very comprehensive.

In this cogent study, the authors illustrate this point by using epidemiological surveillance to obtain large amounts of data (which is generally lacking in human epidemiology, but more dramatically lacking in animal epidemiology) and a highly sophisticated biostatistical analysis (Callenge et al. 2024). It is in itself a demonstration of the current capabilities of population dynamics applied to infectious disease situations, in this case animal, in the rapidly developing discipline of disease ecology and evolution. One of the aims of the study is to propose statistical models that can be used by the different stakeholders in charge, for instance, of wildlife conservation or the regional or State veterinary services to assess disease risk in the most affected regions.


Assel AKHMETOVA​, Jimena GUERRERO​, Paul McADAM, Liliana CM SALVADOR​, Joseph CRISPELL​, John LAVERY​, Eleanor PRESHO​, Rowland R KAO​, Roman BIEK​, Fraser MENZIES​, Nigel TRIMBLE​, Roland HARWOOD​, P Theo PEPLER, Katarina ORAVCOVA​, Jordon GRAHAM​, Robin SKUCE​, Louis DU PLESSIS​, Suzan THOMPSON​, Lorraine WRIGHT​, Andrew W BYRNE​, Adrian R ALLEN. 2023. Genomic epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis infection in sympatric badger and cattle populations in Northern Ireland. Microbial Genomics 9: mgen001023.

Roman BIEK, Anthony O’HARE, David WRIGHT, Tom MALLON, Carl McCORMICK, Richard J ORTON, Stanley McDOWELL, Hannah TREWBY, Robin A SKUCE, Rowland R KAO. 2012. Whole genome sequencing reveals local transmission patterns of Mycobacterium bovis in sympatric cattle and badger populations. PLoS Pathogens 8: e1003008.

Clément CALENGE, Ariane PAYNE, Edouard REVEILLAUD, Céline RICHOMME, Sébastien GIRARD, Stephanie DESVAUX. 2024. Assessing the dynamics of Mycobacterium bovis infection in three French badger populations. bioRxiv, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Infections.

Marc CHOISY, Pejman ROHANI. 2006. Harvesting can increase severity of wildlife disease epidemics. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, Ser. B 273: 2025-2034.

Shannon C DUFFY, Sreenidhi SRINIVASAN, Megan A SCHILLING, Tod STUBER, Sarah N DANCHUK, Joy S MICHAEL, Manigandan VENKATESAN, Nitish BANSAL, Sushila MAAN, Naresh JINDAL, Deepika CHAUDHARY, Premanshu DANDAPAT, Robab KATANI, Shubhada CHOTHE, Maroudam VEERASAMI, Suelee ROBBE-AUSTERMAN, Nicholas JULEFF, Vivek KAPUR, Marcel A BEHR. 2020. Reconsidering Mycobacterium bovis as a proxy for zoonotic tuberculosis: a molecular epidemiological surveillance study. Lancet Microbe 1: e66-e73.

Jean-François GUEGAN. 2019. The nature of ecology of infectious disease. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 19.

Brandon H HAYES, Timothée VERGNE, Mathieu ANDRAUD, Nicolas ROSE. 2023. Mathematical modeling at the livestock-wildlife interface: scoping review of drivers of disease transmission between species. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 10: 1225446.

David KING, Tim ROPER, Douglas YOUNG, Mark EJ WOOLHOUSE, Dan COLLINS, Paul WOOD. 2007. Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers. Report to Secretary of State about tuberculosis in cattle and badgers. London, UK.  

Robert MM SMITH , Francis DROBNIEWSKI, Andrea GIBSON, John DE MONTAGUE, Margaret N LOGAN, David HUNT, Glyn HEWINSON, Roland L SALMON, Brian O’NEILL. 2004. Mycobacterium bovis Infection, United Kingdom. Emerging Infectious Diseases 10: 539-541. 

Assessing the dynamics of *Mycobacterium bovis* infection in three French badger populationsClement CALENGE, Ariane PAYNE, Edouard REVEILLAUD, Celine RICHOMME, Sebastien GIRARD, Stephanie DESVAUX<p>The Sylvatub system is a national surveillance program established in 2011 in France to monitor infections caused by <em>Mycobacterium bovis</em>, the main etiologic agent of bovine tuberculosis, in wild species. This participatory program, inv...Animal diseases, Ecohealth, Ecology of hosts, infectious agents, or vectors, Epidemiology, Geography of infectious diseases, Pathogenic/Symbiotic Bacteria, ZoonosesJean-Francois Guegan2023-06-05 10:50:49 View
29 Jan 2024
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Spring reproductive success influences autumnal malarial load in a passerine bird

Avian Plasmodium parasitaemia as an indicator of reproduction investment

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Luz García-Longoria and 2 anonymous reviewers

Effects of the seasonal variations on within-host parasitaemia are still not well understood and potentially due to numerous factors, e.g. host and parasite species, host sex or age, or geographical regions. In this study, over three years in Switzerland, Pigeault et al. (2024) collected data on great tits reproductive outputs – laying date, clutch size, fledging success – to determine whether they were associated with avian Plasmodium parasitaemia before (winter), during (spring) and after (autumn) the breeding season. They focused on two lineages from two species: a highly generalist lineage Plasmodium relictum (lineage SGS1; Bensch et al. 2009) and a more specialized lineage Plasmodium homonucleophilum (lineage SW2). As previously found, they showed that parasitaemia level is low during the winter and then increase in spring (Applegate, 1970; Applegate 1971). Spring recurrences have been intensively studied but are still not well understood since many non-exclusive factors can provoke them, i.e environmental stressors, reproductive hormones, co-infections or bites of mosquitoes (Cornet et al. 2014).

Interestingly, the parasitaemia level during the winter before and during the breeding season were not associated to the reproductive success, meaning that birds in their populations with low parasitaemia during the winter had not more fledglings than the ones with a higher parasitaemia. However, the individuals who invested the most in the reproduction with a higher number of fledglings had also a higher parasitaemia in the following autumn. The number of laid eggs was not associated with the parasitaemia during the following autumn, showing that the initial investment in the reproduction is less important than the parental care (e.g. chicks feeding) in terms of mid/long term cost. The originality here is that authors followed populations during three periods of the year, which is not an easy task and rarely done in natural populations. Their results highlight the mid/long-term effect of higher resource allocation into reproduction on individuals’ immune system and ability to control parasite replication. Further analyses on various lineages and bird populations from other geographical regions (i.e. different latitudes) would be the next relevant step.


Applegate JE (1971) Spring relapse of Plasmodium relictum infections in an experimental field population of English sparrows (Passer domesticus). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 7, 37–42.

Applegate JE, Beaudoin RL (1970) Mechanism of spring relapse in avian malaria: Effect of gonadotropin and corticosterone. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 6, 443–447.

Bensch S, Hellgren O, Pérez‐Tris J (2009) MalAvi: a public database of malaria parasites and related haemosporidians in avian hosts based on mitochondrial cytochrome b lineages. Molecular Ecology Resources, 9, 1353-1358.

Cornet S, Nicot A, Rivero A, Gandon S (2014) Evolution of plastic transmission strategies in avian malaria. PLoS Pathogens, 10, e1004308.

Pigeault R, Cozzarolo CS, Wassef J, Gremion J, Bastardot M, Glaizot O, Christe P (2024) Spring reproductive success influences autumnal malarial load in a passerine bird. bioRxiv ver 3. Peer reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Infections.

Spring reproductive success influences autumnal malarial load in a passerine birdRomain Pigeault, Camille-Sophie Cozzarolo, Jérôme Wassef, Jérémy Gremion, Marc Bastardot, Olivier Glaizot, Philippe Christe<p>Although avian haemosporidian parasites are widely used as model organisms to study fundamental questions in evolutionary and behavorial ecology of host-parasite interactions, some of their basic characteristics, such as seasonal variations in ...Interactions between hosts and infectious agents/vectors, ParasitesClaire Loiseau Carolina Chagas, Anonymous, Luz García-Longoria2023-08-11 14:14:56 View