USDA partners on disease transmission research

USDA partners on disease transmission research

Federal agencies award research grants that will fund studies on environmental, biological and ecological disease transmission

The USDA, in partnership with the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, is awarding eight new grants totaling $18 million for research that will focus on the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases.

Related: 3 USDA grants focus on livestock disease, pest research

The EEID program supports efforts to understand the underlying ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.

One USDA-NSF-NIH grant will transmission dynamics of E. coli

Disease transmission is a complex process that involves disease organisms, disease vectors, disease hosts and the predators that consume those hosts. It links relatively pristine areas with human habitations and human-dominated areas.

Projects supported through the EEID program allow scientists to study how large-scale environmental events--such as habitat destruction, invasions of non-native species and pollution--alter the risks of emergence of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases in humans and other animals.

The benefits of research on the ecology of infectious diseases include:

• Development of theories of how diseases are transmitted;
• Improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects;
• Increased capacity to forecast disease outbreaks; and
• Knowledge of how infectious diseases emerge and reemerge.

This year's EEID awardees will conduct research on such topics as: group living as a possible explanation for infectious disease vulnerability in social species; vector behavior in transmission ecology; effects of agricultural expansion and intensification on infections; long-distance dispersal and disease outbreaks; and effects of temperature on vector-borne disease transmission.

"As we learn more about the ecology of pathogens that cause infectious diseases, we see clear links among public health, animal health, plant health, and the environment, with agriculture playing a significant role," says Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture director.

"Through our partnership with the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program, we are able to support agriculturally-relevant research on topics of global concern, and help ensure the safety and security of our food supply."

Related: What is mad cow disease, and how does it spread?

The EEID program is also co-funded by the U.K.'s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

BBSRC's science director Melanie Welham adds: "Global uncertainties can present new challenges, and scientific research helps us to prepare for our future. The health of our livestock, plants and crops is dependent on improved knowledge of infectious diseases. This new funding will help us respond more rapidly and effectively to emerging threats, and to safeguard health and food security."

See the 2015 projects >>

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2015 awardees include:

Kathleen Alexander, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Can group living and the influence of Allee Effects explain infectious disease vulnerability in social species? Emergence of M. mungi in the cooperative breeding banded mongoose

Jason Blackburn, University of Florida: Spatio-temporally explicit estimation of R0 for pathogens with environmentally-mediated transmission

Sonia Hernandez, University of Georgia: Consequences of Anthropogenic Resources for the Cross-Scale Dynamics of an Enteric Pathogen in an Avian Host

Leah Johnson, University of South Florida: US-UK Collab: RCN: Vector Behavior in Transmission Ecology (VectorBiTE)

Cristina Lanzas, North Carolina State University-Raleigh: Exposure heterogeneity and environmental transmission dynamics of Escherichia coli

Erin Mordecai, Stanford University: Effects of temperature on vector-borne disease transmission: integrating theory with empirical data

Christopher Mundt, Oregon State University: Long-Distance Dispersal and Disease Outbreaks: Effects of Initial Prevalence, Basic Reproduction Number, and Control Tactics

Jason Rohr, University of South Florida: Effects of Agricultural Expansion and Intensification on Infections

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