Seed Grant in Pathogenic and Commensal Organisms
PIs are Barbara Qurollo, Peter Larsen, Kathy Williams, and Ed Breitschwerdt, North Carolina State University. Tick-borne diseases that negatively impact human health, such as Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis,are becoming more common. The pathogens that cause these diseases circulate in a number of host species that include wildlife, domesticated animals, and humans. In order to minimize tick-borne disease spread in communities where animals and people live in close proximity, it is critical to characterize newly identified tick-borne diseases. This includes identifying the variety of animals infected by tick-borne parasite sand ecological changes that could affect infection rates. Members of our team have discovered new tick-borne parasites in Madagascar that may cause disease in wildlife, domesticated animals, and/or humans. We propose to build upon this discovery by 1) determining the prevalence of newly discovered tick-borne parasites and tick species feeding on wild primates (lemurs) in both areas of forest that have been undisturbed and disturbed by local nickel mining in eastern Madagascar and 2) identifying the zoonotic potential of these parasites in domestic animals and the genetic similarities between strains previously identified in lemurs. The outcome of this study will illustrate how human-disturbed forests influence prevalence of tick-borne parasites and tick species, and inform medical professionals and veterinarians in Madagascar of new tick-borne diseases in their community, addressing the potential for zoonotic transmission and disease in humans.