At least 30 new infectious diseases have emerged in the past 30 years, the majority of these diseases being zoonotic or vector-borne. The field of One Health developed as a way to connect human, animal and environmental health research under the premise that they are interconnected and collaboration between the disciplines could be provide additional insight to emerging infectious diseases. Under the framework of One Health, with an interdisciplinary training background, I strive to use a diverse set of tools and techniques (field work, insect and animal trapping, epidemiology and genome sequencing) to highlight the eco-epidemiology of emerging zoonotic and vector-borne disease.
My master’s work explored whether the presence of high capacity animal agriculture operations had an effect on the present of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the surrounding watershed environments. Antibiotic resistance is a major concern in both human and animal medicine and understanding the antibiotic use in agriculture effects surrounding environments highlights the connection between human and animal health as well as the environment.
My dissertation work focused on developing a laboratory transmission model for epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV); a vector borne virus that causes disease primarily in white-tailed deer. Currently, there is only one confirmed vector, Cuilicoides sonorensis. However, other Culicoides spp. have been shown to either transmit the virus in laboratory setting or have been tested positive for EHDV during field collection. I tested two animals models, immune deficient mice (TLR-3 (-/-) and INFAR (-/-)) and embryonated chicken eggs (ECE), for their abilities to sustain a high viremia long enough to inoculate lab reared Culicoides sonorensis midges during a blood meal. Additionally, Culicoides spp. vector other viruses important to humans, wildlife and agricultural animals and this model could be used to work with suspected vector spp. for these diseases as well.
The objective of my first postdoctoral research project was to use a newly developed high-throughput sequencing technology to assess the factors that contribute to reassortment as well as determine overall rates of reassortment in human and avian influenza strains. Reassortment generates significant viral diversity that can result in a range of different outcomes. This includes mismatch of flu vaccine strains, anti-viral resistance, as well as host switching i.e. avian to human as well as human pandemics including the most recent H1N1 Swine flu outbreak in 2009. Being able to precisely quantify the rate of reassortment, would allow for more accurate predictions of influenza outbreak and pandemic events.
In future research, I seek to combine my knowledge and methods of epidemiology, ecology, and evolution to understand the drivers of emerging viruses and how these viruses spread.