Reconstructing the emergence of a lethal infectious disease of wildlife supports a key role for spread through translocations by humans.
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There have been few reconstructions of wildlife disease emergences, despite their extensive impact on biodiversity and human health. This is in large part attributable to the lack of structured and robust spatio-temporal datasets. We overcame logistical problems of obtaining suitable information by using data from a citizen science project and formulating spatio-temporal models of the spread of a wildlife pathogen (genus Ranavirus, infecting amphibians). We evaluated three main hypotheses for the rapid increase in disease reports in the UK: that outbreaks were being reported more frequently, that climate change had altered the interaction between hosts and a previously widespread pathogen, and that disease was emerging due to spatial spread of a novel pathogen. Our analysis characterized localized spread from nearby ponds, consistent with amphibian dispersal, but also revealed a highly significant trend for elevated rates of additional outbreaks in localities with higher human population density-pointing to human activities in also spreading the virus. Phylogenetic analyses of pathogen genomes support the inference of at least two independent introductions into the UK. Together these results point strongly to humans repeatedly translocating ranaviruses into the UK from other countries and between UK ponds, and therefore suggest potential control measures.
AuthorsPrice, SJ; Garner, TW; Cunningham, AA; Langton, TE; Nichols, RA
- Organismal Biology