Outbreak of peste des petits ruminants among critically endangered mongolian saiga and other wild ungulates, Mongolia, 2016-2017

The 2016-2017 introduction of peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) into livestock in Mongolia was followed by mass mortality of the critically endangered Mongolian saiga antelope and other rare wild ungulates. To assess the nature and population effects of this outbreak among wild ungulates, we collected clinical, histopathologic, epidemiologic, and ecological evidence. Molecular characterization confirmed that the causative agent was PPRV lineage IV. The spatiotemporal patterns of cases among wildlife were similar to those among livestock affected by the PPRV outbreak, suggesting spillover of virus from livestock at multiple locations and time points and subsequent spread among wild ungulates. Estimates of saiga abundance suggested a population decline of 80%, raising substantial concerns for the species' survival. Consideration of the entire ungulate community (wild and domestic) is essential for elucidating the epidemiology of PPRV in Mongolia, addressing the threats to wild ungulate conservation, and achieving global PPRV eradication.

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