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Who infects whom? Disentangling multi-host transmission of pathogens in rodent populations.

Although most emerging infectious diseases are caused by animalborne pathogens that originate from wildlife, the ecological mechanisms that explain how these pathogens spread and persist in the natural environment remain unclear. This research gap arises from the practical challenges of gathering convincing field data due to the stochastic nature of epidemics and the fact that these are longterm, population-level processes. In this project, I propose to investigate how differences in rodent communities influence the prevalence, persistence and control of pathogens that infect multiplehost species. These mechanisms lie at the root of an ongoing debate in conservation biology: whether biodiversity loss will lead to an increase or decrease of infectious disease that might spillover from animals to humans. The work will be based on the analysis of a unique collection of rodent samples that were captured during earlier fieldwork performed in the DRC and Tanzania and will be tested on the presence of different pathogens. By combining this data collection with additional field experiments and mathematical models, my project will test three main hypotheses: (i) pathogens tend to infect multiple host species, (ii) pathogen persistence is often driven by a key host species, and (iii) targeting this key host species suffices for pathogen control.
Date:1 Nov 2020 →  Today
Disciplines:Animal ecology, Bioinformatics of disease, Community ecology, Infectious diseases, Virology
Project type:Collaboration project