Pathogen Detection and Transmission in Wildlife Reservoirs

Principal Investigator

Viacheslav Fofanov

Overview

More than 60% of all human-affecting pathogens are zoonotic (passed between animals and humans) and nearly three fourths of these originate in wildlife. Encroachment into animal habitats and increased urbanization are bringing wildlife into closer contact with human and livestock populations further increasing the odds and severity of zoonotic disease outbreaks. Despite their importance, our understanding of pathogen prevalence and transmission patterns in in many wildlife reservoirs is very limited, largely due to challenges associated with reliable sample access. Our group is working on developing, testing, and implementing accurate and cost-effective bacterial and fungal pathogen detection approaches to enable sustainable long-term monitoring and surveillance of wildlife reservoirs. Our focus is on one such important wild animal order, Chiroptera (bats), which is a very successful mammalian order with more than 1,200 species of bats distributed across all regions of the planet, except the Arctic, Antarctic, and some island chains. Our efforts here are geared towards:

  • Developing high-throughput, accurate, and cost-effective PCR amplicon sequencing based panels for pathogen detection
  • Using indirect and non-invasive sample types (fecal/buccal/hair) to probe targeted animal populations
  • Understanding the prevalence and transmission patters of zoonotically relevant bat pathogens
  • Understanding the impacts of bat gut microbiota on bat-dominated subterranean ecosystems