Image credit: CDC/ Prof. Frank Hadley Collins, Dir., Cntr. for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Univ. of Notre Dame/James Gathany

GAINESVILLE – Blood sucking insects such as the Yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, are more than just a nuisance in Ecuador, they also spread diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika. A warming world means that public health officials must decide where to direct surveillance and mosquito control efforts not only today, but also decades down the road given dramatic shifts in mosquito habitat that will take place thanks to climate change.

Ecuadorian agencies now have a powerful helping hand: a recent paper in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases provides detailed maps forecasting where mosquitoes – and diseases – are likely to be in a warmer future.

The new work from the University of Florida’s Quantitative Disease Ecology & Conservation Lab Group (QDEC Lab) and the Emerging Pathogens Institute assesses the current and future geographic distribution of Ae. aegypti throughout Ecuador. The study was led by PhD Candidate Ms. Cat Lippi and is the result of a long-term collaboration with SUNY Upstate Medical University and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health. Lippi’s committee chair, EPI researcher and QDEC founder Dr. Sadie Ryan, also contributed to the project, as did EPI investigator Dr. Jason Blackburn.

The research team repurposed historic larval mosquito surveillance data collected by the Ministry of Health between 2000 and 2012 in Ecuadorian households to predict where Ae. aegypti may occur in areas that have not yet been surveyed. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are important because they are a vector for several different mosquito-borne diseases and are able to reproduce in small quantities of standing water, making them common in urban settings. The research team used environmental and climate modeling to analyze how areas currently suitable for the mosquito may shift in the future as a result of climate change.

Maps A and E show mosquito distribution today while maps B-D and F-H show where mosquitoes can be predicted in the future given different climate change scenarios.

“We wanted to show the Ministry of Health in Ecuador where disease-carrying mosquitoes might occur in the future,” Lippi says. By analyzing the environmental and climactic characteristics associated with where mosquitoes occur in Ecuador today, the team extrapolated where mosquitoes may occur in 2050 under a range of climate change scenarios and used the presence of these mosquitoes as a proxy for where disease would occur.

The models show that Ae. aegypti are likely to expand their range into regions of transitional elevation along the Andes mountain range by midcentury. The expanded habitat includes the portion of mountainous area where valley floors give way to a mountain’s lower slopes. The higher reaches of the Andes famed peaks are expected to remain protected pockets that will still be too cool, even with extreme warming, for Ae. aegypti to survive. At the same time, changing climate will reduce the mosquito’s range in the eastern portion of the country’s Amazon.

“When there is a population that has never been exposed to pathogens like dengue or Zika, they don’t have any immunity, and that population will be vastly more susceptible to an acute outbreak,” Lippi says. “There are thousands of Ecuadorians who will be exposed to mosquitoes in the future who have never had to deal with them before.”

The team will share their results with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health, which will use the data to prepare for the future. Previous work through the team’s collaboration with Ecuador’s Ministry of Health showed that local knowledge and attitudes are significantly associated with the risk of Ae. aegypti mosquitoes in households in Ecuador, although effects on actual dengue fever risk are less clear. Mosquito-borne diseases pose a serious threat to public health throughout Ecuador and Latin America, where dengue alone accounts for an estimated 16 million infections occurring in the Americas each year.

“Our work gives their health department good forewarning of where to focus their preparations to prevent future outbreaks, and this will help them to conserve limited resources,” Lippi says. Preparations may include educational campaigns on using insect repellent, and window and door screens, as well as how to safely store household water in covered containers. The government can also coordinate spraying efforts to reduce mosquito larvae in the environment.

“Of course we expect to see changes in habitat and species’ ranges due to future climate change,” Lippi says. “But what this study addresses is the question of where those changes will occur, and how severe those changes may be, all within the context of disease risk to people.”

Un nuevo estudio de la Universidad de Florida (Estados Unidos) sugiere que los mosquitos que transmiten enfermedades podrían infectar a poblaciones humanas en Los Andes ecuatorianos debido al cambio climático

Comunidades en Latino América tienen el desafío de reducir la exposición a mosquitos que transmiten enfermedades, como el Aedes aegypti. En Ecuador, este mosquito es más que una molestia. El Aedes aegypti trasmite víruses que causan enfermedades de alta consideración para la salud pública incluyendo dengue, chikungunya y Zika. Dónde el Ministerio de Salud Publica (MSP) podría enfocar los esfuerzos de vigilancia y control de estos mosquitos, hoy y en el futuro, tomando en cuenta el cambio climático?

Un nuevo estudio del grupo, Ecología de Enfermedades y Conservación Cuantitativa (QDEC), de la Universidad de Florida, analiza la distribución geográfica del Aedes aegypti a través de todo Ecuador. El proyecto fue dirigido por Cat Lippi, estudiante de PhD de QDEC, y es el resultado de una colaboración a largo plazo con la Universidad del Estado de New York y Universidad Médica de “Upstate” (SUNY UPSTATE) y el MSP del Ecuador. El equipo de investigadores usó datos históricos de vigilancia de mosquitos recolectados por el MSP para predecir lugares donde Aedes aegypti podría estar presente. Áreas que no se ha inspeccionado de una manera activa y áreas donde podría estar presente en el futuro bajo condiciones de cambio climático. Modelos de “nicho ecológico” fueron creados usando información sobre lugares con la presencia actual del moquito y con variables básicos del ambiente. Los modelos fueron desarrollados usando condiciones climatológicas actuales y futuras, hasta el año 2050.

Este estudio muestra que lugares con elevaciones intermedias a lo largo de Los Andes pueden convertirse en zonas mas asequibles para la presencia de Aedes aegypti en el año 2050. Este descubrimiento sugiere que la población que actualmente viven en estas zonas de transición puede correr el riesgo, en el futuro, de ser expuesto a enfermedades transmitidas por mosquitos, como resultado de cambio climático. Los autores reportan que aumentará la población con riesgo de exposición por más de 12,000 personas bajo los escenarios extremos de cambio climático. Al mismo tiempo, los investigadores identificaron áreas que pueden ser menos propicias para los mosquitos, como la cuenca de la Amazonia.

Actualmente, la mayor parte de las personas que viven en Los Andes están protegidos por las enfermedades transmitidos por mosquitos debido a las altas elevaciones, lo que produce un ambiente frio y no apto para los moquitos. En situaciones extremas de cambio climático, los mosquitos pueden invadir nuevas lugares con elevación de 900 metros más alto que los lugares en actuales condiciones climatológicas. “Las personas que vivan en esta zona de expansión de enfermedades pueden ser más susceptibles a futuros brotes de enfermedades debido a varios factores, incluyendo falta de inmunidad debido a exposición previa al patógeno y falta de conocimiento y costumbres asociados con la prevención de mosquitos y costumbres de protección personal, como el uso de repelente,” indica Lippi. Estudios previos en colaboración con el MSP del Ecuador mostraron que el conocimiento y actitudes de las poblaciones locales están asociados con el riesgo de la presencia de Aedes aegypti en hogares en Machala. Se recomienda estudios en estos nuevas áreas de futuro riesgo.

Las enfermedades transmitidas por mosquitos son una amenaza para la salud pública en toda Latinoamérica, donde dengue causa aproximadamente 16 millones de infecciones anualmente. Estudios como éstos enfatizan la importancia de incorporar la ciencia de “Geografía de la salud” dentro de los estándares de la práctica de la educación pública, proveyendo información más precisa a las agencias de salud pública para mejorar el uso de escasos recursos para el de control de estas enfermedades y para desarrollar intervenciones de control vectorial y de educación pública en lugares específicos.

Media contact: Mike Ryan Simonovich

The UF Geography Department is sending a large contingent to New Orleans for the 2018 meeting of the American Association of Geographers

Find out where you can see a GeoGator present their research below:

Anthropogenic change to fluvial systems, I
Geomorphology Specialty Group, Paleoenvironmental Change Specialty Group, Water Resources Specialty Group
4/10/2018
8:20 AM
Balcony K, Marriott, 4th Floor
Anthropogenic Disturbances and Sand Bar Size Variations of Coastal Plain Rivers, USA
Joann Mossa

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Geographic research on vector-borne diseases (I)
Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group, Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group
4/10/2018
9:00 AM
Lafayette, Marriott, 41st Floor
Using a Network Analysis Framework to Discuss Delivery of Mosquito Abatement Services in Machala, Ecuador
Catherine A Lippi, Liang Mao, Sadie J Ryan

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Anthropogenic change to fluvial systems, II
Geomorphology Specialty Group, Paleoenvironmental Change Specialty Group, Water Resources Specialty Group
4/10/2018
11:20 AM
Room: Balcony K, Marriott, 4th Floor
Riffle-Pool Variability in the Confined Lowermost Mississippi River
Chia-Yu Wu, Joann Mossa

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Applications of Time Series Remote Sensing at the Global to Landscape Scale
4/10/2018
12:40 PM
Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Examining vegetation changes in Eastern Zambia savanna landscapes from 1984-2016: an integrated approach
Hannah Herrero, Jane Southworth

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Applications of Time Series Remote Sensing at the Global to Landscape Scale
4/10/2018
1:20 PM
Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Latitudes and land use: global biome shifts in greenness persistence across three decades
Jane Southworth, Sadie J Ryan, Reza Khatami, Peter Waylen, Hannah V Herrero

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Geographic research on vector-borne diseases (III)
Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group, Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group
4/10/2018
1:40 PM
Lafayette, Marriott, 41st Floor
The future is uncertain: global shifts in potential distribution and seasonal risk of Aedes-transmitted viruses
Sadie Jane Ryan

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Experiential Learning in Geography Education II
Geography Education Specialty Group
4/10/2018
3:40 PM
Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Recruitment and retention in Geosciences through integrated professional and academic experiences
Heidi J. L. Lannon, Corene Matyas

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Geographic research on vector-borne diseases (IV)
Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group, Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group
4/10/2018
4:00 PM
Lafayette, Marriott, 41st Floor
Precise space-time interventions on intra-urban dengue outbreaks using large-scale mobile phone tracking data
Liang Mao

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Geographic research on vector-borne diseases (V)
Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group, Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group
4/10/2018
5:20 PM
Lafayette, Marriott, 41st Floor
A GIS-based Machine Learning Technique for Predicting Spatial Distribution of Phlebotomus papatasi (Diptera: Psychodidae), the Main Vectors of Zoonotic Cutaneous Leishmaniasis
Abolfazl Mollalo

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Land Change Science
Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group, Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Remote Sensing Specialty Group
4/11/2018
8:20 AM
Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Operational large-area land-cover mapping: Ethiopia case study
Reza Khatami, Jane Southworth, Carly Muir

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Topics in U.S. Regional Geography
Rural Geography Specialty Group
4/11/2018
10:00 AM
Galvez, Marriott, 5th Floor
Changing Economic Geography of Southern New England’s “Tobacco Valley”: Surviving in the 21st Century
Matthew McKay

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High-Level Perspectives: NSF, Geosciences, Big Ideas, and Geography
4/11/2018
11:50 AM – 1:10 PM
Bayside C, Sheraton, 4th Floor
This session will feature comments from William Easterling, who currently serves as the Assistant Director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation. On assignment from positions as a professor and dean at Pennsylvania State University, Easterling is the first geographer to serve in the second-highest level of officials at NSF. His comments will touch on issues related to NSF that geographers will find of interest, including federal support for basic research; major emphases for NSF, the NSF Big Ideas, and opportunities for geographers in the Directorate for Geosciences. Other geographers currently at NSF will serve as discussants and provide complementary perspectives from their divisions in the Biological Sciences and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorates. Overall, this special session is designed to provide attendees with new perspectives regarding trends, opportunities, and issues at NSF.
Michael Binford

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Environmental Geography
4/11/2018
1:40 PM
Balcony N, Marriott, 4th Floor
Morphometric differences between megafans and alluvial fans
M. Anwar Sounny-Slitine

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Spatial Demography
Population Specialty Group
4/11/2018
6:40 PM
Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Spatially explicit age segregation index and self-rated health of older adults in U.S. cities
Guangran Deng, Liang Mao

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Hurricanes I: Climatology/meteorology
4/12/2018
9:00 AM
Napoleon D1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Spatial characteristics of rain fields associated with tropical cyclones landfalling over the western Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea
Yao Zhou, Corene Matyas

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Geographies of health and health care V: Spatial and temporal analysis
Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group
4/12/2018
1:20 PM
Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Understanding temporal changes of access to healthcare: an analytic framework for local factor impacts
Jue Yang, Liang Mao

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Regional evolutionary economic geography approaches to destination evolution
Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Specialty Group
4/12/2018
1:20 PM – 3:00 PM
Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
A Comparative Assessment of Tourism Development of Zambian National Parks to those in the South African Region
Brian Child

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Physical Geography Poster Session II
4/12/2018
1:20 PM – 3:00 PM
Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Accessibility to hurricane shelters for Airbnb users in Miami metropolitan area
Sanghoon Kim

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Development, Geospatial Technologies and Spatial Organization in Africa
Africa Specialty Group
4/12/2018
4:00 PM
Gallier A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Vegetation Persistence and Change in Ethiopia as a Function of Climate
Carly Muir, Jane Southworth, Reza Khatami

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Preparing Competitive Research Grants in Biogeography
Biogeography Specialty Group, Careers and Professional Development
4/12/2018
5:20 PM – 7:00 PM
Studio 1, Marriott, 2nd Floor
This panel, organized by and for biogeographers but open to all, aims to review and discuss the ins and outs of preparing competitive research grants. Discussion topics will range from where, how, and why to successfully seek external funding for biogeographic research, NSF broader impacts and intellectual merit, lesser-known sources of funding, what to do when the big plans fall through, and much more. The panel features panelists from various career stages and areas of expertise.
Michael Binford

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Geographies of Climate Change Mitigation: Marketization, Financialization, and Decarbonization 1
Economic Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
4/13/2018
8:40 AM
Grand Ballroom D, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Tropical Africa and the Political Economy of Climate Change Mitigation
Abe Goldman

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Landscape Speciality Group-Student Presentation Competition II
Landscape Specialty Group
4/13/2018
10:40 AM
Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
A landscape level analysis of urbanization, lake level change and community impacts in Mwanza Gulf, Tanzania
Ryan Good, Jane Southworth

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Wetlands and Meadows: Integrated Research in Geomorphology, Soils, Hydrology, Biogeography and Microclimatology
Biogeography Specialty Group, Climate Specialty Group, Geomorphology Specialty Group
4/13/2018
3:40 PM
Astor Ballroom I, Astor, 2nd Floor
Predicting the Potential Geographic Distributions of Non-Native Fishes in Florida with Climate Change
Joseph A. Andreoli

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Tropical Conservation, Development & Agriculture Short Papers
Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, Graduate Student Affinity Group
4/13/2018
5:53 PM
Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Climate, Food Insecurity and Under-five Stunting in Zambia
Audrey Smith

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Tropical Conservation, Development & Agriculture Short Papers
Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, Graduate Student Affinity Group
4/13/2018
5:53 PM
Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Situational Analysis of Mangalane, Mozambique in the context of a Community Based Natural Resource Management Project
Leandra Merz

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Health (Workforce) Geography
Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group, Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group
4/14/2018
8:00 AM
Oak Alley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Mapping rural–urban disparities in late-stage cancer with space-time rurality index and GWR
Liang Mao, Jue Yang, Guangran Deng

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Analyzing movement data using GIS: Lagrangian and Eulerian perspectives
Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group
4/14/2018
4:00 PM – 5:40 PM
Napoleon B2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Living la Vida T-LoCoH: Site fidelity amongst Florida wild and captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) during the epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) transmission period
Emily Dinh, Jeremy P. Orange, Jason K. Blackburn

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Analyzing space and time in the African environments
4/14/2018
5:20 PM
Grand Ballroom D, Astor, 2nd Floor
Time Series Analysis of Vegetation Change and Changes in Persistence Analyses in Umfolozi-Hluhluwe Park 2001-2016
Meshari Alenezi

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Health and Hazards
Type: Paper
4/13/2018
6:00 PM
Napoleon B2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Effects of Brucellosis Serological Status on Physiological Conditions and Behavioral Mechanisms of Southwestern Montana Elk
Anni Yang, Jason Blackburn

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Health and Hazards
Type: Paper
4/13/2018
6:40 PM
Napoleon B2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Inferring processes from dynamic abundance time series
Jason Blackburn

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.

 

Dr. Blackburn in Western Kazakhstan on a saiga antelope expedition, May 2017. Image courtesy Nurgisa Rametov.

Congratulations to Dr. Jason Blackburn, who was named a Colonel Allan R. & Margaret G. Crow Term Professor for the 2017-2018 year! These one-year professorships were created by Colonel Allen R. and Mrs. Margaret G. Crow to recognize faculty who demonstrate excellent in scholarship, teaching, and service. These professorships, funded entirely by private sources, allow the college to recognize faculty who are making a significant difference in the classroom as well as through their scholarship.

Image courtesy PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Image courtesy PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

KRACALIK, MORRIS, BLACKBURN – Cholera in Cameroon, 2000-2012: Spatial and Temporal Analysis at the Operational (Health District) and Sub Climate Levels

Moise C. Ngwa, Song Liang, Ian T. Kracalik, Lillian Morris, Jason K. Blackburn, Leonard M. Mbam, Simon Franky Baonga Ba Pouth, Andrew Teboh, Yang Yang, Mouhaman Arabi, Jonathan D. Sugimoto, John Glenn Morris Jr.

Article first published online: 17 NOV 2016 PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005105

ABSTRACT:

Cholera was first reported in Cameroon in 1971. From 2000–2012, Cameroon reported on average 3,344.2 cases per year. When we divided the country into its four climate subzones (Sudano-Sahelian, Tropical Humid, Guinea Equatorial, and Equatorial Monsoon), there were very different patterns of spatial clustering of health districts with elevated attack rates, as well as differing sets of ecological determinants of cases counts. In the northern Sudano-Sahelian climate subzone, reported cases tended to occur between July and September, during the rainy season; whereas, the southern Equatorial Monsoon subzone reported cases year-round, with the lowest burden during the same rainy season. As cholera displays different epidemiological patterns by subzone, a single approach to controlling cholera for the whole nation does not appear to be viable. Additional prospective epidemiological studies are needed to further elucidate subzone-specific determinants of cholera burden, in order to provide sufficient evidence-based guidance for the formulation and assessment of regionally tailored intervention strategies.

Read the full publication at PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

food-securityBLACKBURN – Banana xanthomonas wilt continues to spread in Tanzania despite an intensive symptomatic plant removal campaign: an impending socio-economic and ecological disaster

Mpoki M. Shimwela, Randy C. Ploetz, Fen D. Beed, Jeffrey B. Jones, Jason K. Blackburn, Shabani I. Mkulila, Ariena H. C. van Bruggen

Article first published online: 16 SEPT 2016 Food Security

DOI: 10.1007/s12571-016-0609-3

ABSTRACT:

Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW), caused by the recently introduced pathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum (Xcm), is a limiting factor for banana production in Kagera, Tanzania. A region-wide eradication campaign was initiated in 2013. The objectives were to gain insight into the spatial and seasonal occurrences of BXW and into field management practices. In 2015, 135 smallholder farmers were interviewed about BXW and management practices, and their farms were assessed for incidence of the disease. BXW incidence per ward in 2014, obtained from extension offices, and space-time cluster analysis was performed with SaTScan. BXW clusters were detected during rainy but not during dry seasons. These results agreed with the information provided by farmers that the highest incidence of BXW occurred during rainy seasons. Farmers recalled that BXW incidence increased exponentially between 2011 and 2013 but decreased steeply after 2013, coincident with the start of the BXW eradication campaign. However, pathogen transmission continued due to inconsistent sterilization of field tools and exposure of Xcm to rain. Fields of poor farmers are at greatest risk because they borrow tools and are unable to impose some recommended management practices. After the appearance of BXW in individual farms, the number of banana bunches consumed per family per month decreased significantly from 13.1 to 6.4 with a corresponding increase in areas planted to cassava and maize. Based on these findings, we suggest refining the BXW management recommendations, in particular limiting the cutting of BXW-affected plants to dry periods and sterilizing farm tools in fire.

Read the full publication at Food Security

BARRO, BLACKBURN – Redefining the Australian Anthrax Belt: Modeling the Ecological Niche and Predicting the Geographic Distribution of Bacillus anthracis

Alassane S. Barro, Mark Fegan , Barbara Moloney, Kelly Porter, Janine Muller, Simone Warner, Jason K. Blackburn

Article first published online: 09 JUN 2016 PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004689

ABSTRACT: The ecology and distribution of B. anthracis in Australia is not well understood, despite the continued occurrence of anthrax outbreaks in the eastern states of the country. Efforts to estimate the spatial extent of the risk of disease have been limited to a qualitative definition of an anthrax belt extending from southeast Queensland through the centre of New South Wales and into northern Victoria. This definition of the anthrax belt does not consider the role of environmental conditions in the distribution of B. anthracis. Here, we used the genetic algorithm for rule-set prediction model system (GARP), historical anthrax outbreaks and environmental data to model the ecological niche of B. anthracis and predict its potential geographic distribution in Australia. Our models reveal the niche of B. anthracis in Australia is characterized by a narrow range of ecological conditions concentrated in two disjunct corridors. The most dominant corridor, used to redefine a new anthrax belt, parallels the Eastern Highlands and runs from north Victoria to central east Queensland through the centre of New South Wales. This study has redefined the anthrax belt in eastern Australia and provides insights about the ecological factors that limit the distribution of B. anthracis at the continental scale for Australia. The geographic distributions identified can help inform anthrax surveillance strategies by public and veterinary health agencies.

Read the full publication at PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

BLACKBURN, MORRIS – Predicting Disease Risk, Identifying Stakeholders, and Informing Control Strategies: A Case Study of Anthrax in Montana

Lillian R. Morris, Jason K. Blackburn

Article first published online: 11 MAY 2016 EcoHealth

DOI: 10.1007/s10393-016-1119-7

ABSTRACT: Infectious diseases that affect wildlife and livestock are challenging to manage and can lead to large-scale die-offs, economic losses, and threats to human health. The management of infectious diseases in wildlife and livestock is made easier with knowledge of disease risk across space and identifying stakeholders associated with high-risk landscapes. This study focuses on anthrax, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, risk to wildlife and livestock in Montana. There is a history of anthrax in Montana, but the spatial extent of disease risk and subsequent wildlife species at risk are not known. Our objective was to predict the potential geographic distribution of anthrax risk across Montana, identify wildlife species at risk and their distributions, and define stakeholders. We used an ecological niche model to predict the potential distribution of anthrax risk. We overlaid susceptible wildlife species distributions and land ownership delineations on our risk map. We found that there was an extensive region across Montana predicted as potential anthrax risk. These potentially risky landscapes overlapped the ranges of all 6 ungulate species considered in the analysis and livestock grazing allotments, and this overlap was on public and private land for all species. Our findings suggest that there is the potential for a multi-species anthrax outbreak on multiple landscapes across Montana. Our potential anthrax risk map can be used to prioritize landscapes for surveillance and for implementing livestock vaccination programs.

Read the full publication at EcoHealth.

Dr. José Javier Hernández Ayala, Dr. Corene Matyas, Dr. Stephanie Zick, Dr. Jason Blackburn, and Dr. Lillian Morris at UF’s Spring 2016 Commencement. Image courtesy Dr. Jason Blackburn

We are proud to announce our latest PhD graduates – Dr. José Javier Hernández Ayala, Dr. Lillian Morris, and Dr. Stephanie Zick!

Dr. Zick will join the Department of Geography at Virginia Tech as an Assistant Professor of Geographic Meteorology. She looks forward to diversifying the program with her tropical meteorology and numerical weather prediction expertise.

Dr, Morris will join the Environmental Epidemiology Unit of the Washington State Division of Environmental Public Health – Office of Environmental Public Health Sciences as a Spatial Epidemiologist. She will continue to develop the R and Python skills as well as her experience with wildlife disease that she has gained while studying Medical Geography.

Dr. Hernández Ayala is currently applying for faculty positions where he can utilize his skills in Tropical Climatology, Climate Change, Applied Climatology, Hydroclimatology, Urban Climatology, Flood Hydrology.

BLACKBURN – Spatiotemporal Clustering of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex Genotypes in Florida: Genetic Diversity Segregated by Country of Birth

Marie Nancy Séraphin, Michael Lauzardo, Richard T. Doggett, Jose Zabala, J. Glenn Morris Jr., Jason K. Blackburn

Article first published online: 19 APR 2016 PLoS ONE

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153575

ABSTRACT:

Background
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC). Although the MTBC is highly clonal, between-strain genetic diversity has been observed. In low TB incidence settings, immigration may facilitate the importation of MTBC strains with a potential to complicate TB control efforts.

Methods
We investigated the genetic diversity and spatiotemporal clustering of 2,510 MTBC strains isolated in Florida, United States, between 2009 and 2013 and genotyped using spoligotyping and 24-locus MIRU-VNTR. We mapped the genetic diversity to the centroid of patient residential zip codes using a geographic information system (GIS). We assessed transmission dynamics and the influence of immigration on genotype clustering using space-time permutation models adjusted for foreign-born population density and county-level HIV risk and multinomial models stratified by country of birth and timing of immigration in SaTScan.

Principal Findings
Among the 2,510 strains, 1,245 were reported among foreign-born persons; including 408 recent immigrants (<5 years). Strain allelic diversity (h) ranged from low to medium in most locations and was most diverse in urban centers where foreign-born population density was also high. Overall, 21.5% of cases among U.S.-born persons and 4.6% among foreign-born persons clustered genotypically and spatiotemporally and involved strains of the Haarlem family. One Haarlem space-time cluster identified in the mostly rural northern region of Florida included US/Canada-born individuals incarcerated at the time of diagnosis; two clusters in the mostly urban southern region of Florida were composed predominantly of foreign-born persons. Both groups had HIV prevalence above twenty percent.

Conclusions/Significance
Almost five percent of TB cases reported in Florida during 2009–2013 were potentially due to recent transmission. Improvements to TB screening practices among the prison population and recent immigrants are likely to impact TB control. Due to the monomorphic nature of available markers, whole genome sequencing is needed to conclusively delineate recent transmission events between U.S. and foreign-born persons.

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