Dynamics of a morbillivirus at the domestic–wildlife interface: Canine distemper virus in domestic dogs and lions

Morbilliviruses are a growing concern because of their ability to infect multiple species. The spill-over of canine distemper virus (CDV) from domestic dogs has been associated with severe declines in wild carnivores worldwide, and therefore mass dog vaccination has been suggested as a potential control strategy. Focusing on three decades of CDV exposure data in dogs and lions of the Serengeti, we show that cyclic infection dynamics in lions initially driven by dogs became more frequent and asynchronous, suggesting that the wider dog population and other wildlife species drive CDV dynamics. Hence, although widespread dog vaccination reduced the infection in dogs, transmission to lion populations still occurred, warranting further investigation into effective management options of CDV in this species-rich ecosystem.