Wildlife pathogen ecology and evolution
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Transmission and evolution of a persistent pathogen: anthrax infection dynamics and global population structure
There has been an increase in the emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases around the globe, and wildlife diseases have now become one of the most conspicuous threats to the conservation of biodiversity. My current work in this area focuses on the global genomic structure of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, the etiologic agent of anthrax disease. Bacillus anthracis is found naturally throughout the world, and commonly infects livestock and wildlife, often proving fatal. A wide range of studies have examined global differences in Bacillus anthracis employing a carefully selected panel of molecular markers, but whole genome sequencing technology is quickly making past methods used for bacterial typing and phylogenetic analysis obsolete. My work in this area utilizes molecular genomics for the purposes of redefining global diversity in this species using both mined-data, as well as samples collected in the wild. I am currently working under a 2.5 million dollar National Science Foundation grant in Dr. Wendy Turner’s lab (wendyturner.org) at the University at Albany where I am leading lab work associated with DNA extraction and quantification, whole genome sequencing, genome assembly and annotation using state of the art bioinformatic techniques to elucidate global and regional differences in genomic structure. This work has already made important findings related to genomic diversity in this species, and has major implications for global disease and wildlife management. Future studies related to this work will not only help resolve current outstanding problems regarding the relationships, management, and monitoring of a worldwide threat to wildlife, but will also provide significant insights into how historical translocations, the environment and ecological variation have helped spread this bacterium over the last several centuries.
Funding & Acknowledgments This work is supported by the National Science Foundation and would not be possible without the help and support of Dr. Wendy Turner, Zoe Barandongo, Yen-Hua Huang, Nicholas Schiraldi, Pauline Kamath, and W. Ryan Easterday.