Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI)
Erin Mordecai, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Distinct life history strategies underpin clear patterns of succession in microparasite communities infecting a wild mammalian host.
Individual animals in natural populations tend to host diverse parasite species concurrently over their lifetimes. In free-living ecological communities, organismal life histories shape interactions with their environment, which ultimately forms the basis of ecological succession. However, the structure and dynamics of mammalian parasite communities have not been contextualized in terms of primary ecological succession, in part because few datasets track occupancy and abundance of multiple parasites in wild hosts starting at birth. Here, we studied community dynamics of twelve subtypes of protozoan microparasites (Theileria spp.) in a herd of African buffalo. We show that Theileria communities followed predictable patterns of succession underpinned by four different parasite life-history strategies. In contrast to many free-living communities, network complexity decreased with host age. Examining parasite communities through the lens of succession may better inform the effect of complex within host eco-evolutionary dynamics on infection outcomes, including parasite co-existence through the lifetime of the host.
View details for DOI 10.1111/mec.16949
View details for PubMedID 37009964
- Human footprint is associated with shifts in the assemblages of major vector-borne diseases NATURE SUSTAINABILITY 2023
Data-driven predictions of potential Leishmania vectors in the Americas.
PLoS neglected tropical diseases
2023; 17 (2): e0010749
The incidence of vector-borne diseases is rising as deforestation, climate change, and globalization bring humans in contact with arthropods that can transmit pathogens. In particular, incidence of American Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (ACL), a disease caused by parasites transmitted by sandflies, is increasing as previously intact habitats are cleared for agriculture and urban areas, potentially bringing people into contact with vectors and reservoir hosts. Previous evidence has identified dozens of sandfly species that have been infected with and/or transmit Leishmania parasites. However, there is an incomplete understanding of which sandfly species transmit the parasite, complicating efforts to limit disease spread. Here, we apply machine learning models (boosted regression trees) to leverage biological and geographical traits of known sandfly vectors to predict potential vectors. Additionally, we generate trait profiles of confirmed vectors and identify important factors in transmission. Our model performed well with an average out of sample accuracy of 86%. The models predict that synanthropic sandflies living in areas with greater canopy height, less human modification, and within an optimal range of rainfall are more likely to be Leishmania vectors. We also observed that generalist sandflies that are able to inhabit many different ecoregions are more likely to transmit the parasites. Our results suggest that Psychodopygus amazonensis and Nyssomia antunesi are unidentified potential vectors, and should be the focus of sampling and research efforts. Overall, we found that our machine learning approach provides valuable information for Leishmania surveillance and management in an otherwise complex and data sparse system.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0010749
View details for PubMedID 36809249
Human-mediated impacts on biodiversity and the consequences for zoonotic disease spillover.
Current biology : CB
2021; 31 (19): R1342-R1361
Human-mediated changes to natural ecosystems have consequences for both ecosystem and human health. Historically, efforts to preserve or restore 'biodiversity' can seem to be in opposition to human interests. However, the integration of biodiversity conservation and public health has gained significant traction in recent years, and new efforts to identify solutions that benefit both environmental and human health are ongoing. At the forefront of these efforts is an attempt to clarify ways in which biodiversity conservation can help reduce the risk of zoonotic spillover of pathogens from wild animals, sparking epidemics and pandemics in humans and livestock. However, our understanding of the mechanisms by which biodiversity change influences the spillover process is incomplete, limiting the application of integrated strategies aimed at achieving positive outcomes for both conservation and disease management. Here, we review the literature, considering a broad scope of biodiversity dimensions, to identify cases where zoonotic pathogen spillover is mechanistically linked to changes in biodiversity. By reframing the discussion around biodiversity and disease using mechanistic evidence - while encompassing multiple aspects of biodiversity including functional diversity, landscape diversity, phenological diversity, and interaction diversity - we work toward general principles that can guide future research and more effectively integrate the related goals of biodiversity conservation and spillover prevention. We conclude by summarizing how these principles could be used to integrate the goal of spillover prevention into ongoing biodiversity conservation initiatives.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2021.08.070
View details for PubMedID 34637744
Strategies for managing marine disease
The incidence of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) has increased in wildlife populations in recent years and is expected to continue to increase with global environmental change. Marine diseases are relatively understudied compared with terrestrial diseases but warrant parallel attention as they can disrupt ecosystems, cause economic loss, and threaten human livelihoods. Although there are many existing tools to combat the direct and indirect consequences of EIDs, these management strategies are often insufficient or ineffective in marine habitats compared with their terrestrial counterparts, often due to fundamental differences between marine and terrestrial systems. Here, we first illustrate how the marine environment and marine organism life histories present challenges and opportunities for wildlife disease management. We then assess the application of common disease management strategies to marine versus terrestrial systems to identify those that may be most effective for marine disease outbreak prevention, response, and recovery. Finally, we recommend multiple actions that will enable more successful management of marine wildlife disease emergencies in the future. These include prioritizing marine disease research and understanding its links to climate change, improving marine ecosystem health, forming better monitoring and response networks, developing marine veterinary medicine programs, and enacting policy that addresses marine and other wildlife diseases. Overall, we encourage a more proactive rather than reactive approach to marine wildlife disease management and emphasize that multidisciplinary collaborations are crucial to managing marine wildlife health.
View details for DOI 10.1002/eap.2643
View details for Web of Science ID 000828498100001
View details for PubMedID 35470930
EXPLORING THE USE OF THE ERYTHROCYTE SEDIMENTATION RATE AS AN INFLAMMATORY MARKER FOR FREE-RANGING WILDLIFE: A CASE STUDY IN AFRICAN BUFFALO (SYNCERUS CAFFER)
JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE DISEASES
2022; 58 (2): 298-308
Measuring inflammatory markers is critical to evaluating both recent infection status and overall human and animal health; however, there are relatively few techniques that do not require specialized equipment or personnel for detecting inflammation among wildlife. Such techniques are useful in that they help determine individual and population-level inflammatory status without the infrastructure and reagents that many more-specific assays require. One such technique, known as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), is a measure of how quickly erythrocytes (red blood cells) settle in serum, with a faster rate indicating a general, underlying inflammatory process is occurring. The technique is simple, inexpensive, and can be performed in the field without specialized equipment. We took advantage of a population of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), well studied from June 2014 to May 2017, to understand the utility of ESR in an important wildlife species. When ESR was compared with other markers of immunity in African buffalo, it correlated to known measures of inflammation. We found that a faster ESR was significantly positively correlated with increased total globulin levels and significantly negatively correlated with increased red blood cell count and albumin levels. We then evaluated if ESR correlated to the incidence of five respiratory pathogens and infection with two tick-borne pathogens in African buffalo. Our results suggest that elevated ESR is associated with the incidence of bovine viral diarrhea virus infection, parainfluenza virus, and Mannheimia haemolytica infections as well as concurrent Anaplasma marginale and Anaplasma centrale coinfection. These findings suggest that ESR is a useful field test as an inflammatory marker in individuals and herds, helping us better monitor overall health status in wild populations.
View details for DOI 10.7589/JWD-D-21-001I4
View details for Web of Science ID 000787191700005
View details for PubMedID 35276000
- Corrigendum: Global Patterns of the Fungal Pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Support Conservation Urgency. Frontiers in veterinary science 2022; 9: 825058
Global Patterns of the Fungal Pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Support Conservation Urgency.
Frontiers in veterinary science
2021; 8: 685877
The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a skin pathogen that can cause the emerging infectious disease chytridiomycosis in susceptible species. It has been considered one of the most severe threats to amphibian biodiversity. We aimed to provide an updated compilation of global Bd occurrences by host taxon and geography, and with the larger global Bd dataset we reanalyzed Bd associations with environmental metrics at the world and regional scales. We also compared our Bd data compilation with a recent independent assessment to provide a more comprehensive count of species and countries with Bd occurrences. Bd has been detected in 1,375 of 2,525 (55%) species sampled, more than doubling known species infections since 2013. Bd occurrence is known from 93 of 134 (69%) countries at this writing; this compares to known occurrences in 56 of 82 (68%) countries in 2013. Climate-niche space is highly associated with Bd detection, with different climate metrics emerging as key predictors of Bd occurrence at regional scales; this warrants further assessment relative to climate-change projections. The accretion of Bd occurrence reports points to the common aims of worldwide investigators to understand the conservation concerns for amphibian biodiversity in the face of potential disease threat. Renewed calls for better mitigation of amphibian disease threats resonate across continents with amphibians, especially outside Asia. As Bd appears to be able to infect about half of amphibian taxa and sites, there is considerable room for biosecurity actions to forestall its spread using both bottom-up community-run efforts and top-down national-to-international policies. Conservation safeguards for sensitive species and biodiversity refugia are continuing priorities.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fvets.2021.685877
View details for PubMedID 34336978