Thomas Müller

Biodiversität und Klima - Forschungszentrum, Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany

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Publications (96)268.34 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: • The history of the last rabies epizootic and fox rabies control in Europe is reviewed.• The progress made in elimination of fox rabies is discussed, along with a critical appraisal of current control related issues.• Future challenges and research needs are addressed.
    The Veterinary Journal. 10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Background: Rabies is a neglected zoonotic disease caused by rabies virus which belongs to the genus lyssavirus. In endemic countries of Asia and Africa, where the majority of the estimated 60,000 human rabies deaths occur, it is mainly caused by the classical rabies virus (RABV) transmitted by dogs. Over the last decade new species within the genus lyssavirus have been identified. Meanwhile 15 (proposed or classified) species exist, including Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), European bat lyssavirus (EBLV-1 and -2), Duvenhage virus (DUVV), as well as Lagos bat virus (LBV) and Mokola virus (MOKV) and recently identified novel species like Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV), Ikoma bat lyssavirus (IKOV) or Lleida bat lyssavirus (LLBV). The majority of these lyssavirus species are found in bat reservoirs and some have caused human infection and deaths. Previous work has demonstrated that Purified Chick Embryo Cell Rabies Vaccine (PCECV) not only induces immune responses against classical RABV, but also elicits cross-neutralizing antibodies against ABLV, EBLV-1 and EBLV-2. Material & Methods: Using the same serum samples as in our previous study, this study extension investigated cross-neutralizing activities of serum antibodies measured by rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test (RFFIT) against selected other non-classical lyssavirus species of interest, namely DUVV and BBLV, as well as MOKV and LBV. Results: Antibodies developed after vaccination with PCECV have neutralizing capability against BBLV and DUVV in the same range as against ABLV and EBLV-1 and -2. As expected, for the phylogenetically more distant species LBV no cross-neutralizing activity was found. Interestingly, 15 of 94 serum samples (16%) with a positive neutralizing antibody titer against RABV displayed specific cross-neutralizing activity (65-fold lower than against RABV) against one specific MOKV strain (Ethiopia isolate), which was not seen against a different strain (Nigeria isolate). Conclusion: Cross-neutralizing activities partly correlate with the phylogenetic distance of the virus species. Cross-neutralizing activities against the species BBLV and DUVV of phylogroup 1 were demonstrated, in line with previous results of cross-neutralizing activities against ABLV and EBLV-1 and -2. Potential partial cross-neutralizing activities against more distant lyssavirus species like selected MOKV strains need further research.
    Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics. 10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Large scale vaccination with glycoprotein E (gE)-deleted marker vaccines and the rapid and reliable differentiation of wild-type and marker vaccine strains are important aspects in eradication programs for Suid herpesvirus 1 [SuHV-1, syn. Aujeszky's disease virus (ADV) or pseudorabies virus (PrV)]. Therefore, two multiplex real-time PCR (qPCR) assays for the genetic differentiation of wild-type and gE-deleted vaccine SuHV-1 strains have been developed. In the first multiplex qPCR SuHV-1 gB-gene specific detection was combined with a gE-gene specific assay and an internal control based on heterologous DNA. In the second system, a SuHV-1 UL19 (major capsid protein gene) assay, a different gE-gene specific assay and an internal control based on the beta-actin gene were combined. The gB-gene, UL19 as well as both gE-gene specific assays had an analytical sensitivity of less than 10 genome copies per reaction in the respective multiplex approaches. A series of reference strains including field isolates obtained from domestic and wild animals, and gE-deleted SuHV-1 were reliably detected, while genetically related non-SuHV-1 herpesviruses tested negative. Both newly developed triplex SuHV-1-specific qPCR assays are specific and sensitive methods for the rapid genetic differentiation of wild-type viruses and gE-deleted vaccine strains in a single reaction.
    Journal of Virological Methods 09/2014; · 1.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background/Question/Methods Kernel-density estimation (KDE) is unique in its role as a statistically efficient yet non-parametric method for estimating the probability-density function of independent and identically distributed data. Despite its widespread application to home-range estimation, animal tracking data violates the underlying assumption of independence via the presence of autocorrelation. Here, we rederive the kernel-density estimator from first principles, dropping the assumption of independence, and allowing for the presence of autocorrelation. Our new kernel-density estimator is valid for autocorrelated data, which makes it perfectly suited for movement data. Results/Conclusions We test our method against both real and simulated data using a sample of Mongolian gazelles and their previously identified autocorrelated movement model. For the individual gazelle with the longest span of data, our autocorrelated KDE predicts a home-range area of 350,000 -- 800,000 km2, while the conventional estimate is only 46,000 -- 53,000 km2. These results are consistent with those from simulated data. As the sampling rate increases and data quality improves, the conventional home-range estimate shrinks with tightening confidence intervals.
    99th ESA Annual Convention 2014; 08/2014
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    ABSTRACT: 1. Many animals hoard seeds for later consumption and establish seed caches that are often located at sites with specific environmental characteristics. One explanation for the selection of non-random caching locations is the avoidance of pilferage by other animals. Another possible hypothesis is that animals choose locations that hamper the perishability of stored food, allowing the consumption of unspoiled food items over long time periods.2. We examined seed perishability and pilferage-avoidance as potential drivers for caching behaviour of Spotted nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes) in the Swiss Alps where the birds are specialized on caching seeds of Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra).3. We used seedling establishment as an inverse measure of seed perishability, as established seedlings cannot longer be consumed by nutcrackers. We recorded the environmental conditions (i.e., canopy openness and soil moisture) of seed caching, seedling establishment and pilferage sites.4. Our results show that sites of seed caching and seedling establishment had opposed micro-environmental conditions. Canopy openness and soil moisture were negatively related to seed caching but positively related to seedling establishment, i.e., nutcrackers cached seeds preferentially at sites where seed perishability was low. We found no effects of environmental factors on cache pilferage, i.e. neither canopy openness nor soil moisture had significant effects on pilferage rates. We thus could not relate caching behaviour to pilferage-avoidance.5. Our study highlights the importance of seed perishability as a mechanism for seed caching behaviour, which should be considered in future studies. Our findings could have important implications for the regeneration of plants whose seeds are dispersed by seed-caching animals, as the potential of seedlings to establish may strongly decrease if animals cache seeds at sites that favour seed perishability rather than seedling establishment.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Journal of Animal Ecology 08/2014; · 4.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Studies on the ranging behaviour of birds often suggest that ranges vary seasonally with larger ranges in the non-breeding compared to the breeding season. However, due to limitations in tracking methods very little is known about the underlying processes driving seasonal differences in ranging behaviour, especially in fragmented, heterogeneous landscapes. Such knowledge is particularly important if movements deliver essential ecosystem functions such as seed dispersal. We contrasted the daily ranging behaviour between the breeding and non-breeding season of a frugivorous bird and demonstrate how larger seasonal ranges in the non-breeding season emerge through switching from a stationary home range behaviour to nomadism. We tracked movements of 29 male trumpeter hornbills Bycanistes bucinator across a fragmented landscape of eastern South Africa during different breeding and non-breeding seasons using high temporal resolution GPS data-loggers. Birds in the breeding seasons showed a typical, stationary home range pattern. In the non-breeding seasons birds, rather than expanding their stationary daily ranges, switched to nomadic movements that were characterized by shifts of the general location of daily ranges to a different area every couple of days. We also found that during the breeding seasons hornbills were mostly located in large continuous forests; birds in the non-breeding seasons frequently used forest patches within the agricultural landscape and residential areas. These seasonal differences in the movement behaviour of trumpeter hornbills may have important consequences for seed dispersal of plant species. Our findings show how seasonal range expansion of frugivorous birds may be driven by fundamental behavioural changes that have important consequences for ecosystem processes.
    Ecography 06/2014; · 5.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In Germany, rabies in bats is a notifiable zoonotic disease, which is caused by European bat lyssaviruses type 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and 2), and the recently discovered new lyssavirus species Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV). As the understanding of bat rabies in insectivorous bat species is limited, in addition to routine bat rabies diagnosis, an enhanced passive surveillance study, i.e. the retrospective investigation of dead bats that had not been tested for rabies, was initiated in 1998 to study the distribution, abundance and epidemiology of lyssavirus infections in bats from Germany. A total number of 5478 individuals representing 21 bat species within two families were included in this study. The Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) and the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) represented the most specimens submitted. Of all investigated bats, 1.17% tested positive for lyssaviruses using the fluorescent antibody test (FAT). The vast majority of positive cases was identified as EBLV-1, predominately associated with the Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). However, rabies cases in other species, i.e. Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), P. pipistrellus and Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) were also characterized as EBLV-1. In contrast, EBLV-2 was isolated from three Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii). These three cases contribute significantly to the understanding of EBLV-2 infections in Germany as only one case had been reported prior to this study. This enhanced passive surveillance indicated that besides known reservoir species, further bat species are affected by lyssavirus infections. Given the increasing diversity of lyssaviruses and bats as reservoir host species worldwide, lyssavirus positive specimens, i.e. both bat and virus need to be confirmed by molecular techniques.
    PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 05/2014; 8(5):e2835. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Understanding animal movement is a key challenge in ecology and conservation biology. Relocation data often represent a complex mixture of different movement behaviors, and reliably decomposing this mix into its component parts is an unresolved problem in movement ecology. Traditional approaches, such as composite random walk models, require that the timescales characterizing the movement are all similar to the usually arbitrary data-sampling rate. Movement behaviors such as long-distance searching and fine-scale foraging, however, are often intermixed but operate on vastly different spatial and temporal scales. An approach that integrates the full sweep of movement behaviors across scales is currently lacking. Here we show how the semivariance function (SVF) of a stochastic movement process can both identify multiple movement modes and solve the sampling rate problem. We express a broad range of continuous-space, continuous-time stochastic movement models in terms of their SVFs, connect them to relocation data via variogram regression, and compare them using standard model selection techniques. We illustrate our approach using Mongolian gazelle relocation data and show that gazelle movement is characterized by ballistic foraging movements on a 6-h timescale, fast diffusive searching with a 10-week timescale, and asymptotic diffusion over longer timescales.
    The American Naturalist 05/2014; 183(5):E154-67. · 4.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Animal migration, one of the most fascinating of all behaviors, links ecosystems and has profound ecological consequences over very large scales. Ungulatemigrations are among the most imperiled ecological phenomena in the world
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    Conservation Biology 04/2014; · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The "gold standard" for post-mortem rabies diagnosis is the direct fluorescent antibody test (FAT). However, in the case of ante-mortem non-neural sample material or decomposed tissues, the FAT reaches its limit, and the use of molecular techniques can be advantageous. In this study, we developed and validated a reverse transcription PCR cascade protocol feasible for the classification of samples, even those for which there is no epidemiological background knowledge. This study emphasises on the most relevant European lyssaviruses. In a first step, two independent N- and L-gene based pan-Lyssavirus intercalating dye assays are performed in a double-check application to increase the method's diagnostic safety. For the second step, characterisation of the lyssavirus positive samples via two independent multiplex PCR-systems was performed. Both assays were probe-based, species-specific multiplex PCR-systems for Rabies virus, European bat lyssavirus type 1 and 2 as well as Bokeloh bat lyssavirus. All assays were validated successfully with a comprehensive panel of lyssavirus positive samples, as well as negative material from various host species. This double-check strategy allows for both safe and sensitive screening, detection and characterisation of all lyssavirus species of humans and animals, as well as the rapid identification of currently unknown lyssaviruses in bats in Europe.
    Journal of virological methods 03/2014; · 2.13 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Quantifying ecosystem functions in spatially explicit ways is important for management decisions in increasingly fragmented landscapes. Between-patch dispersal of seeds by frugivores constitutes a key ecosystem function to ensure connectivity for fleshy-fruited plants. However, to date, methodological hurdles have limited our understanding of dispersal pathways on the landscape scale.We made use of newly available tracking devices and combined movement data of 30 trumpeter hornbills Bycanistes bucinator with gut passage times and high-resolution habitat data in a fragmented forest landscape in South Africa. We identified each potential seed dispersal path and distinguished whether potential seed transport happened to a different forest patch (between-patch dispersal), within the same patch (within-patch dispersal) or into the habitat matrix (failed dispersal). To quantify functional landscape connectivity, we identified all possible between-patch connections and used graph networks to estimate landscape connectivity provided by hornbills.Although potential between-patch dispersal events were rare (on average 7% compared to 20% failed dispersal and 73% within-patch dispersal), hornbills could cover distances of up to 15 km. Hornbills visited over 100 forest patches and connected a habitat network with an extent of about 50 km, which increased the potential functional connectivity of the landscape more than twofold.We identified habitat patches that were critical stepping stones for seed dispersal pathways. Without these stepping stones, the network would likely disintegrate into separated components and lead to isolation of forest fragments.Synthesis and applications. We showed that large frugivorous birds can greatly improve functional connectivity for fleshy-fruited plants across broad scales, linking habitat patches in fragmented forest landscapes. Combining high-resolution movement and landscape data in graph networks allows identifying seed dispersal pathways and critical stepping stones in fragmented landscapes. This approach addresses the general challenge of spatially explicit mapping of ecosystem services and can be widely incorporated in reserve design and landscape-level conservation planning.
    Journal of Applied Ecology 03/2014; · 4.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Interferons (IFNs) are cytokines produced by host cells in response to the infection with pathogens. By binding to the corresponding receptors, IFNs trigger different pathways to block intracellular replication and growth of pathogens and to impede the infection of surrounding cells. Due to their key role in host defence against viral infections as well as for clinical therapies, the IFN responses and regulation mechanisms are well studied. However, studies on type I IFNs are mainly focusing on IFNα and β subtypes. Knowledge about IFNκ and ω is limited. Moreover, most of the studies are done in humans or mouse models but not in the original host of zoonotic pathogens.Bats are important reservoirs and transmitters of zoonotic viruses like lyssaviruses. A few studies have shown an antiviral activity of IFNs in fruit bats. However, the function of type I IFNs against lyssaviruses in bats is not studied yet. Here, IFNκ and IFNω genes from European serotine bat, Eptesicus serotinus, were cloned and functionally characterized. E. serotinus IFNκ and IFNω genes are intron-less and well conserved between Microchiropterean species. The promoter regions of both genes contain essential regulatory elements for transcription factors. In vitro studies indicated a strong activation of IFN signalling by recombinant IFNω, whereas IFNκ displayed weaker activation. Noticeably, both IFNs inhibit to different extents the replication of different lyssaviruses in susceptible bat cell line. The present study provides functional data on the innate host defence against lyssaviruses in endangered European bats. In this manuscript we describe for the first time the molecular and functional characterization of two type I interferons (IFN κ and ω) from European serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). The importance of this study is mainly based on the fact that very limited information about the early innate immune response against bat Lyssaviruses in their natural host serotine bats is yet available. Generally, whereas the antiviral activity of other type I interferons is well studied the functional involvement of IFN κ and ω is not yet investigated.
    Journal of Virology 02/2014; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The European Union has used IPA (Instrument for Pre-Accession) funds to provide technical assistance and supplies for the eradication, monitoring and control of rabies in several pre-Accession countries. As a result, since 2010, multi-annual oral rabies vaccination (ORV) programmes for eliminating fox rabies have been launched in six Western Balkan countries. Here the implementation of the ORV programme in Kosovo, the smallest of the West Balkan countries, is described. Associated challenges under difficult political conditions, potential biases, and the results of rabies surveillance and monitoring of ORV campaigns (bait-uptake and immunisation rates) since 2010 are reported.
    International Journal of Medical Microbiology. 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Aujeszky's disease (AD, pseudorabies) is a notifiable disease caused by Suid herpesvirus 1 (SuHV-1), also named pseudorabies virus (PrV). The study aimed at determining the occurrence and spatio-temporal trend of specific antibodies to AD virus (ADV) among wild boar of Saxony-Anhalt, a landlocked federal state situated in the western part of eastern Germany. To this end, a total of 7,209 blood samples were collected and tested from 2000 to 2011. An average seroprevalence of 6.8% was found for the entire observation period, whilst seroprevalence increased significantly between time periods January 2000-March 2009 (n = 3,605; prevalence = 4.5%) and March 2009-December 2011 (n = 3,604; prevalence = 9.1%). Spatial analysis revealed an extremely heterogenous distribution of seropositive samples with cluster formation [relative risk (RR) up to 41, P = 0.001] in the east. A comparison of spatial clusters between the aforementioned time intervals showed an expansion of the disease in the north to north-westerly direction. A test for spatial shift involving the entire territory of Saxony-Anhalt detected a spread of ADV infection in the latter direction (P = 0.079) at the average speed of 3.3 km/year. Detailed study of the distribution and spread of the disease among wild boar, including assessment of the speed of spatial spread, has not been done in the region before. Saxony-Anhalt has been officially recognised as being free of AD in domestic pigs since 1996. Despite increasing ADV seroprevalences in the wild boar population of Saxony-Anhalt and other federal states in the east of Germany, no spill-over to domestic pigs have been reported. The currently implemented monitoring will be continued in conjunction with surveillance of classical swine fever (CSF) to further trace ADV infections in the wild boar population of Saxony-Anhalt.
    Geospatial health 11/2013; 8(1):203-213. · 1.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mongolian gazelles are Central Asia's most abundant plains ungulate and an iconic symbol of large unfragmented grasslands. Despite a long history of commercial harvesting and subsistence hunting by herding households, adult gazelle demographic data is almost non-existent. We calculated cause-specific mortality rates for 49 adult gazelles collared with a global positioning system. Exponential models provided better fits to survival distributions from collared gazelles than did either Weibull or Gompertz models, and yielded an overall estimated annual mortality risk of 36%. The estimated daily hazard rate from human-caused mortality was 30% greater than the hazard rate due to natural mortality alone. Estimated median lifespan of adult gazelles was just 4 years, which concurred with age data taken from incisor cementum annuli obtained from harvested animals and from a natural mass mortality. For gazelles that have already reached adulthood, in the absence of hunting mortality, the estimated median lifespan of collared gazelles increased from 4 years to 8 years. Survivorship estimates from the complete telemetry dataset (including both natural and human-caused mortality sources) yielded lifespan estimates in line with greatly shortened lifespans evident during periods of heightened mortality, whether from a mass-mortality event or commercial hunting. When compared to earlier population models for the species, our results suggest current survival rates based on measures of natural and human-caused mortality will not support a stable population. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.
    Journal of Wildlife Management 11/2013; · 1.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract The small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), a rabies reservoir species on several Islands in the Caribbean, was successfully immunized against rabies for the first time by offering animals a vaccine bait specifically designed for this small carnivore. The bait contained on average 0.6 mL of the genetically modified replication-competent rabies virus construct SPBN GASGAS (10(8.5) focus-forming units/mL). Three of four mongooses offered a bait developed an immune response above 0.5 IU/mL, but the response was less pronounced than in two animals offered the vaccine by direct oral instillation.
    Journal of wildlife diseases 10/2013; 49(4):1033-6. · 1.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Successful bird migration can depend on individual learning, social learning, and innate navigation programs. Using 8 years of data on migrating whooping cranes, we were able to partition genetic and socially learned aspects of migration. Specifically, we analyzed data from a reintroduced population wherein all birds were captive bred and artificially trained by ultralight aircraft on their first lifetime migration. For subsequent migrations, in which birds fly individually or in groups but without ultralight escort, we found evidence of long-term social learning, but no effect of genetic relatedness on migratory performance. Social learning from older birds reduced deviations from a straight-line path, with 7 years of experience yielding a 38% improvement in migratory accuracy.
    Science 08/2013; 341(6149):999-1002. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In Germany, active bat rabies surveillance was conducted between 1993 and 2012. A total of 4546 oropharyngeal swab samples from 18 bat species were screened for the presence of EBLV-1- , EBLV-2- and BBLV-specific RNA. Overall, 0•15% of oropharyngeal swab samples tested EBLV-1 positive, with the majority originating from Eptesicus serotinus. Interestingly, out of seven RT–PCR-positive oropharyngeal swabs subjected to virus isolation, viable virus was isolated from a single serotine bat (E. serotinus). Additionally, about 1226 blood samples were tested serologically, and varying virus neutralizing antibody titres were found in at least eight different bat species. The detection of viral RNA and seroconversion in repeatedly sampled serotine bats indicates long-term circulation of the virus in a particular bat colony. The limitations of random-based active bat rabies surveillance over passive bat rabies surveillance and its possible application of targeted approaches for future research activities on bat lyssavirus dynamics and maintenance are discussed.
    Epidemiology and Infection 08/2013; · 2.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Memory is critical to understanding animal movement but has proven challenging to study. Advances in animal tracking technology, theoretical movement models and cognitive sciences have facilitated research in each of these fields, but also created a need for synthetic examination of the linkages between memory and animal movement. Here, we draw together research from several disciplines to understand the relationship between animal memory and movement processes. First, we frame the problem in terms of the characteristics, costs and benefits of memory as outlined in psychology and neuroscience. Next, we provide an overview of the theories and conceptual frameworks that have emerged from behavioural ecology and animal cognition. Third, we turn to movement ecology and summarise recent, rapid developments in the types and quantities of available movement data, and in the statistical measures applicable to such data. Fourth, we discuss the advantages and interrelationships of diverse modelling approaches that have been used to explore the memory-movement interface. Finally, we outline key research challenges for the memory and movement communities, focusing on data needs and mathematical and computational challenges. We conclude with a roadmap for future work in this area, outlining axes along which focused research should yield rapid progress.
    Ecology Letters 08/2013; 16(10):1316-1329. · 17.95 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

637 Citations
268.34 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • Biodiversität und Klima - Forschungszentrum
      Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany
  • 2007–2014
    • University of Maryland, College Park
      • Department of Biology
      Maryland, United States
  • 2005–2014
    • Friedrich Loeffler Institute
      • • Institute of Molecular Biology
      • • Institute of Diagnostic Virology
      • • Institute of Epidemiology
      Griefswald, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
    • Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung
      • Department Ökologische Systemanalyse
      Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
  • 2013
    • Conservation Biology Institute
      Corvallis, Oregon, United States
  • 2012
    • University of Duisburg-Essen
      Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
    • Croatian Veterinary Institute
      • Department of Virology
      Zagrabia, Grad Zagreb, Croatia
  • 2010
    • University of Zurich
      • Vetsuisse-Faculty
      Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2009
    • Kansas State University
      Kansas, United States