About This Project
Researchers estimate that 60% of infection diseases are spread from animals to humans, often by arthropods. Although malaria infections are decreasing in Africa, there has been an increase in acute febrile illness (AFI). AFI includes rapid onset of fever and symptoms such as headache and chills. The South African Mnisi community, which shares 75% surrounded by wildlife reserves, has a high number of AFI cases. We plan to test the hypothesis that AFI in Mnisi is attributed to tick-borne pathogens
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What is the context of this research?
Researchers estimate that 60% of infectious diseases are spread from animals to humans. Arthropods are responsible for many of these animal-to-human diseases. In much of Africa, severe fever (AFI) is among the most common illness in people seeking medical care. These fevers are often misdiagnosed as malaria and lead to the misuse of limited resources. Research has suggested a link between rodents and febrile illness.
The South African Mnisi community is an impoverished rural area that shares ~80% of its boundary with wildlife reserves, which puts it at the frontline of the human/wildlife/livestock interface. Additionally, the majority of households have reported seeing rodents in their home on a daily basis. Furthermore, the Mnisi community has a high caseload of febrile illness.
What is the significance of this project?
It is well known that rodents are important reservoir for many tick-transmitted pathogens, and play a key role in the circulation of tick-borne infections. The potential danger that ticks pose to the Mnisi community, as well as in Africa, is thus a major concern. The active surveillance for potential pathogens is of utmost importance in order to predict and combat emerging tick-borne diseases.
We propose to address a series of basic research questions about the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens, the role of the wildlife as a reservoir of infection for humans, and development of innovative new diagnostic tools. We will be expanding our knowledge of tick-associated diseases that could improve human health in South Africa. Overall, we will strive to increase the awareness of ticks in Mnisi.
What are the goals of the project?
1. Analyze the bacterial, protozoan, and viral microbiomes of ticks from the Mnisi community. Analysis will reveal the range of endosymbionts and pathogens to be found in the Mnisi community.
2. Develop diagnostic assays for the detection of the emerging pathogens identified. Well-standardized diagnostic tests will be developed for the sensitive and specific detection of the emerging pathogens in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
3. We will test human patients that presented with non-malarial acute febrile illness at the health clinics in the Mnisi community for the presence of the zoonotic pathogens identified in ticks in Goal 2. In cases where no previously developed tests are available, we plan to use the diagnostic tests developed in Goal 2.
My goal is to provide my educational and research experience to the Mnisi community in dealing with tick-borne diseases. I have listed the basic funds required for me to begin my project, including traveling within the field site, collection expenses, and a small portion for microbiome sequencing. Additionally, I have been awarded a research grant from the University of Pretoria in South Africa (400,000 ZAR over 2 years) for the AFI-Mnisi project, which will cover the bulk of the research expenses, and these additionally funds will allow me to cover my travel and unforeseen expenses once I'm at the Mnisi community.
Meet the Team
Hello everyone! My name is Cory and I'm finishing up my PhD at Washington State University. My educational background includes a Bachelors in Microbiology, a Masters in Ecology, and my Ph.D. will be in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Additionally, I am an ARCS Fellow in the Seattle branch (www.arcsfoundation.org).
My research experiences are very broad and have bounced around. I have worked in the realm of molecular genetics, algal taxonomy, insect ecology, and infectious diseases. Additionally, I was a research fellow at the CDC in the Malaria Entomology branch.
My research interests center around medical entomology and ecology. I am specifically interested in finding eco-friendly biological control methods to fight tick-borne diseases that cause human and animal diseases.
I ran a successful crowdsourcing project in 2014, which resulted in several presentations and publications (www.experiment.com/microbiome). Recently, the following publications have been accepted/published:
Clayton KA*, Gall CA*, Mason KL, Scoles GA, and Brayton KA. "The characterization and manipulation of the Bacterial Microbiome of the Rocky Mountain Wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni." Parasites & Vectors
(2015) 8:632. DOI 10.1186/s13071-015-1245-z
*Authors contributed equally to manuscript
Gall CA, Reif KE, Mason K, Mousel M, Scoles GA,
Noh SM, and Brayton KA. “The Bacterial Microbiome of Dermacentor andersoni Ticks Influences Pathogen Susceptibility.” (The ISME Journal, In Press)
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