The ecology of infection, immunity and transmission in a wild rodent model

amy pedersen


Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Le vendredi 1 février - 11h30 Campus Triolet Univ Montpellier: amphi 23.01 - Bât. 23

 (Seminar in English)

Despite great concern about the current global health threat of infectious diseases in humans and domestic animals, we still don’t have a clear understanding about how ecological heterogeneity determines infection burdens, disease, transmission, or how to successfully control infections in variable populations. Most drug treatments are selected using data from labora-tory animal systems such as inbred mice. While these models are essential for understanding the molecular and cellular responses, they do not capture the variability inherent in natural populations, humans and animals alike. Our over-reliance on highly controlled, laboratory models may underlie some of our failures to adequately manage disease burdens in real-world settings, where individuals compete for food, mates and space; endure seasonal and spatial environmental variabil-ity; and are exposed to a vast array of parasites and pathogens. These sources of variation affect the dynamics of infection and yet this variation is missing in most laboratory studies. Over the past 10 years, we have established a wild rodent– parasite community system in order to investigate the causes and consequences of this ecological heterogeneity for host-parasite interactions.   In this seminar, I will show how we are using a hybrid wild/laboratory rodent model to address the ecology of infection/coinfection, immunity and parasite transmission. Specifically, I will talk about: (i) what determines susceptibility and resistance to parasites in the wild?, (ii) whether parasites interact within a host and what the conse-quences are for these interactions?, (iii) how nutrition impacts infection, treatment and the broader parasite community, and lastly, (iv) whether these types of ecological models can infer patterns of transmission in multi-host systems? Together this pairing of both the lab and natural setting provides a unique and powerful opportunity to understand the causes and consequences of ecological heterogeneity on infection, immunity and disease control.

Recent publications:

Clerc, M., Devevey, G., Fenton, A. and Pedersen, A.B. (2018) Antibodies and coinfection drive variation in nematode burdens in wild mice. International Journal of Parasitology 48: 792-795.

Withenshaw, S. M., Devevey, G., Pedersen, A. B. and Fenton, A. (2016) Multicast Bartonella parasites display covert host specificity even when transmitted by generalist vectors. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85: 1442–1452. 

Knowles, S.L., Fenton, A., Petchey, O, & Pedersen, A.B. (2013) Stability of within host parasite communities in a wild mammal system. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 280: 1762.

Streicker, D., Fenton, A.F. & Pedersen, A.B. (2013) Differential sources of host species heterogeneity influence the transmission and control of multihost parasites. Ecology Letters 16: 975-984.

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