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DEMOGRAPHIC AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES TO RESOURCE SHIFTS AND THE TRANSMISSION OF RABIES IN VAMPIRE BATS

Abstract

Infectious diseases have increased in prevalence and expanded their geographic distribution in recent decades, and it has been hypothesized that this is a result of disturbances to ecosystem structure and biodiversity. This project considers a case study of this phenomenon by examining how the expanding livestock rearing industry in Latin America affects interactions between common vampire bats and their directly transmitted rabies viruses. Vampire bats are distributed throughout much of Latin America, where they often exist in high densities due to their opportunistic use of livestock as a novel and abundant food source. This project will monitor a series of field sites in Peru to ask how livestock density affects vampire bat abundance and rabies transmission. Genetic studies of vampire bats will estimate population sizes and movement rates of bats within and between livestock rearing and forested areas. Mathematical models will be developed and used to analyze how human activities that affect vampire bat density and dispersal also affect rabies dynamics. These models will be parameterized using data from experimental infection studies with captive vampire bats, designed to examine the time course of infection, including recovery and immunity, for which limited data currently exist. The investigators predict that by increasing vampire bat abundance and movement rates, supplemental resources in the form of livestock will cause rabies to shift from causing rare but large outbreaks in forest bat populations to constant persistence at low prevalence in livestock areas. Because deforestation, urbanization and livestock rearing are intensifying in much of the developing world, a better understanding of how wildlife-pathogen interactions will respond to such changes is needed urgently. This project will contribute to training and career mentoring for graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and research assistants, who will each be encouraged to develop independent projects related to the project. This work continues established collaborations with the Peruvian Ministry of Health, the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, the University of San Marcos and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; as such, this project will build a strong foundation to empower future scientific research and collaboration in a developing country. Finally, results of this study will inform rabies control efforts in Latin America, where vampire bats cause the majority of human and livestock rabies cases. Project Terms:

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Funding Source

Project Period

2010-2014