Revealing the virome of Sydney's red fox
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:26 authored by Sarah Campbell
Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are an invasive pest that contribute to the decline of native animals in Australia. Foxes are found in particularly high densities in cities, where the vast majority of Australia's human population resides. It is important to examine whether these urban-adapted pests are carriers of pathogens that may impact the health of humans and other animals. To understand the role that foxes may play as hosts of disease we used a meta-transcriptomic approach to describe the virome of the red fox. RNA from foxes and their ectoparasites were sequenced to reveal viromes of both urban and rural foxes from the Greater Sydney region. Foxes were found to harbour novel viruses including those from the Astroviridae, Picobirnaviridae, Hepeviridae and Picornaviridae. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus-2 was also found. Virome structure differed remarkably between urban and rural foxes, and rural foxes harboured a greater abundance of viruses compared to urban foxes. Overall, this study revealed Sydney's foxes are hosts to a wide diversity of viruses, some of which are close genetic relatives of viruses that infect domestic pets and humans. With continual rapid urbanisation, this finding highlights the need for research on wildlife diseases in urban landscapes.