Geography Colloquium: Mapping Challenges, Genetic Mutations, & Complicated Diagnostics of Anthrax Across West Africa

Published: October 26th, 2017

Category: Featured, News

Image courtesy Dr. Jason Blackburn.

Mapping Challenges, Genetic Mutations, & Complicated Diagnostics of Anthrax Across West Africa

Speaker: Dr. Jason Blackburn

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Florida

Thursday, October 26, 2017

3:00-3:50 PM (Period 8)

Turlington Hall Room 3012

University of Florida

All are welcome to attend.

Jason Blackburn is Associate Professor of Geography and the Director of the Spatial Epidemiology & Ecology Research Lab, jointly housed in Geography and the Emerging Pathogens Institutes. SEER Lab is focused on zoonoses, in particular bacterial pathogens such as Bacillus anthracis¸ the causative agent of anthrax, Brucella spp., the cause of brucellosis, and Clostridium botulinum, the cause of botulism. Dr. Blackburn has an extensive background with wildlife and has worked with aquatic and terrestrial animals for the past 20 years. Current wildlife projects include: GPS collar based work on deer and exotic hoofstock in Florida, saiga antelope interactions with domestic sheep in Kazakhstan, and camera trap work on bison, elk, and scavengers in Montana.

The incidence of anthrax in West Africa presents an important challenge for human and livestock health. This region and has one of the highest human anthrax burdens globally. Most recently, we identified a high rate of human anthrax with very high mortality in Ghana. Likewise, we confirmed the presence of the novel West African Group lineage (WAG; also reported as Aß and E clades) of Bacillus anthracis, previously reported from Cameroon, in Nigeria and Chad. Genetic algorithms have been used to map anthrax risk in Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon, but without considering Bacillus cereus variant anthracis (Bcvara). This pathogen presents a significant anthrax-like disease risk across the same regions of West Africa, and affects primates, humans, and livestock. While initially described from isolated great ape deaths, this pathogen has now been found across West Africa and appears widespread. Here we report on a Bcvara strain isolated from the molar of a colobus monkey, C. polykomos, found on the forest floor of the Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire. While infrequent, this species is hunted and eaten by chimpanzees and was hypothesized as a host to infect chimps when first described.



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