December 16, 2019

Environmental predictors of disease prevalence in a lizard-malaria system

PIs: Marie-Claire Chelini (Duke University), Bryan Stuart (NC Museum of Natural Sciences)

Fall 2019 Seed Grant in Pathogenic and Commensal Organisms

While some parasites bring high costs to their hosts, such as increased mortality and reduced reproductive success, others appear to have no costs. The first step towards elucidating the mechanisms of resistance and tolerance through which hosts respond to their specific parasites is to understand how parasite prevalence varies across a hosts’ geographic range. Here, we use the Western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, and its malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, to understand variation in parasite prevalence, and therefore the risk of infection of their hosts. By combining environmental and genomic data, we aim to identify which environmental variables best predict likelihood of infection, and which geographic regions are more likely to exhibit high malaria prevalence. These findings will expand our knowledge on the drivers of parasite infection and will provide insights into the mechanisms underlying disease resistance, virulence, and tolerance, all of which are central tenets of evolutionary medicine and One Health.

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